Take Advantage of Raspberry Season

It's raspberry season!

It’s raspberry season!

It’s July. And that means it is raspberry season. Whether you call them raspberries, framboises, himbeeren, frambuesas, lamponi, vadelmat, or hallon, they are delicious.

All over Canada, the U.S., and Europe, raspberries are ripening on canes, ready to be plucked off and popped into waiting mouths. No more plastic packages shipped from Chile and Mexico at the grocery store. No more pretending that I don’t care about the texture and that a bowl of mushy thawed berries poured out of a bag from the freezer is just fine.

Instead the bright red jewels shine up at me from stalls in the farmer’s market. Or, even better, I fill my basket at a you-pick farm or at the cottage. Warm from the sun, I place one upside down on my tongue, and press with my palate. The berry flattens and then each drupelet bursts open and tart juice floods my taste buds. I’m in heaven.

Raspberries are my favorite fruit. It is difficult to find a bad raspberry, even in the middle of winter having survived the transit from South America. While cherries are my favorite during cherry season, and passionfruit my favorite when I’m in a country that grows passionfruit, raspberries are the overall winners.

And raspberries during raspberry season are absolutely unbeatable.

I remember a trip to Europe with my mum and sister when I was 17. In Germany, there seemed to be little punnets of raspberries available on every second street corner. We devoured them walking down the streets, and my generous mum stopped to buy a new one as soon as the white bottom of the basket started to appear. Our hotel in the village of Bacharach, on the Rhine, served warmed raspberries for dessert and fresh ones with breakfast. They let me have seconds, but only after I learned how to say raspberries in German (himbeeren).

It was still raspberry season when we got over to France. My first dinner at a (then) Michelin 3-star restaurant—Auberge de Père Bise near Lac Annecy—featured not one but two servings of fresh raspberries, with blueberries, for dessert. You know you’re a raspberry fiend when you turn down sweets concocted by a Michelin 3-starred pastry chef for berries! They were incredible.

Back home in Canada, my summers are filled with raspberries. As much as I love the tropics and tropical fruit, I’m not sure I could ever give up my northern raspberry summers.

Well… let’s wait until I get to Chile in the southern summer and try their berries. Maybe I’ll change my mind!

Delicious.

Delicious.

Easy Raspberry Pie Recipe

When you have a glut of berries in July, or it is the middle of winter and all you have is frozen, the best thing to do with them is make pie.

This is an easy recipe that makes, if I do say so myself, the best raspberry pie. I like a pie that is fruity—I’m not keen on those that taste like a jar of jam was poured into the pie crust and baked. I want to taste fruit, not sugar. The problem with this is that only a little sugar with the fruit makes for a very liquidy pie. This was a sacrifice I was willing to make. But then Alton Brown, food scientist/historian, cookbook author, and Food Network star, gave me the solution.

This raspberry pie recipe is based on that of my grandma, tweaked by my mum, and then I’ve added the Alton Brown secrets. Yes, my grandma and my mum used to make their own pie crust. You can too if you want. Or feel free to use prepared crusts from the freezer section. I do, and I have a little trick to make it look more homemade (and my mum is perfectly happy eating it).

TravelEater’s Raspberry Pie
About 4 cups raspberries (i.e. a pie-shell full) (you can also use blueberries, blackberries, or rhubarb; if using frozen berries, then thaw them slightly)
1/2 cup sugar (an additional ¼ cup or so if using rhubarb)
1/4 cup flour
1/8 tsp salt
Zest of one lemon
Double-shelled frozen pie crust (or dough for double crust)
Egg wash (an egg white mixed with 1 tbsp water)
1 to 2 tbsp butter, in pieces
1 to 2 tbsp sugar, preferably Demerara or turbinado for the big crystals and crunch, but white sugar is fine

Berry paste

Berry paste

Put about 1/3 of your raspberries into a big bowl and squish them with a fork (if using frozen, you’ll need them to thaw enough to do this). Add in the flour, sugar, salt and lemon zest. Stir everything together to make a thick, bright pink raspberry paste. Let this sit about 20 minutes. (This is Part A of Alton Brown’s trick—the natural pectin in the fruit will bond with the sugar and flour, and magically create a perfect pie texture without the need to add cornstarch or too much flour).

Now prepare your bottom pie shell. Brush some of the egg wash over the inside of the unbaked bottom shell of the pie crust (this makes the crust less likely to absorb the fruit juice). Poke crust with a fork a few times. Bake at 375 for a few minutes until it browns slightly. Set aside to cool. If you don’t have an egg, just bake the poked shell until it browns slightly.

Put the raspberry paste into the bottom pie shell, spreading it around a bit to make it even. Pile the rest of your raspberries on top.  It doesn’t matter how frozen they are. Put in as many berries as you have or that will fit. The more the merrier.

Break the butter into pieces and dot them on top of the berries. Put the top crust over the pie and press the edges to seal. Stab the top a few times with a fork to allow the steam to escape.

Almost ready to bake!

Almost ready to bake!

Here’s your fake-it-homemade-crust trick: Brush the top of the pie with the egg wash (if you weren’t using it, just dip your hand under the tap and flick the water onto the crust a couple times). Sprinkle the Demerara sugar over; it will stick to your egg wash/water. Once cooked, your crust will look homemade and have the perfect extra crunch from the sugar.

Bake at 400 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Put a cookie tray on the rack underneath the pie pan to catch any drips. The pie is ready when the top has browned and you can see raspberry juice bubbling up at an edge or through one of the steam holes.

Now Part B of Alton Brown’s trick. No matter how much you want to dig into this pie, under no circumstance should you cut into it until it has fully cooled. Let it sit on the counter for about a half hour, and then put it in the fridge until it has cooled completely (feel the bottom of the pie plate).

Once the pie is fridge cold, cut into it and be thrilled that you can lift out a perfect triangle and that the raspberry goodness doesn’t ooze into the empty space you’ve created.

Johanna Read

About Johanna Read

TravelEater, aka Johanna Read, is a Canadian who loves travelling and loves eating, but hates eating tourist food. She collects -- and shares -- advice about eating around the world (and about what to do between snacks). Johanna is World Travel Buzz's new International Eating Expert and will be writing a monthly column.