Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Surfeit of Raspberries

Were I a poet, I would write an Ode to Raspberries. Perhaps it is because I live in mango-land that I love the fragile, fragrant berry so much.We can buy raspberries in the tropics, at some times of the year, of course, as one can buy mangoes in the decidedly temperate parts of the world, but I am sure we would all agree that they are pale shades of their locally grown counterparts.This is particulary true of the raspberry, I think, because it is so delicate that no matter the skills of the packaging manufacturer and transport company, it always suffers on the journey.

One does not go to The Oxford English Dicitionary for poetry, but here is it's prosaic opinion on the raspberry:

"The edible, soft, berry-like fruit of the plant Rubus idaeus and its cultivated varieties, being a compound fruit consisting of many small, typically dark red, drupelets on a conical receptacle from which the ripe fruit is easily detached. Also: the similar fruit of any of several other species of Rubus.
Originally the fruit was used chiefly for flavouring wine and other drinks, but later was eaten fresh and used for making preserves, pies, etc."

Now, the last sentence got my attention. I had no idea that the chief early use of the (no doubt much less sweet version) of the fruit was in preparing beverages. Did you know that? 

The first mention of the fruit quoted in the OED is in 1602, but in 1796 we have a mention of "Raspberries, which are raised chiefly for the use of the distillers, and conveyed to London in swing carts." A 'raspberry' in the eighteenth century could mean an alcoholic raspberry drink or a 'temperance cordial', not just a fruit.

I have two more days in England before I set off home to Brisbane, and I can assure you I will continue my my raspberry-eating orgy (hereinafter called a 'gorgy') until the very last moment. If I was in a home with a kitchen rather than a hotel room, and still had fruit over from my raspberry gorgy, I would be very tempted to make the following recipe:

To each quart of raspberries allow a pound of loaf-sugar. Mash the raspberries and strew the sugar over them, having first pounded it slightly, or cracked it with the rolling-pin. Let the raspberries and sugar set till next day, keeping them well covered, then put them in a thin linen bag and squeeze out the juice with your hands. To every pint of juice allow a quart of double-rectified whisky. Cork it well, and set it away for use. It will be ready in a few days.
Raspberry Vinegar (which, mixed with water, is a pleasant and cooling beverage in warm weather) is made exactly in the same manner as the cordial, only substituting the best white vinegar for the whisky.
[The cook's own book, and housekeeper's register; Eliza Leslie, 1840]

1 comment:

Les said...

I've read about bottled ready to drink fruit flavored vinegars and am planning on making this! Thanks for the recipe!