July 27, 2016

Of Raspberries & Pie Cherries

This has truly been a banner year for raspberries!
Our own patch has produced more than it ever has, and we have had 3 different friends invite us to pick at their houses. Yes!

We thought we were in berry-picking heaven at the first friend's house.

In about an hour and half, this how many we got.

Then we went to the next friend's house. It was amazing!
There were huge tall bushes, loaded with clusters of large, ripe berries!
In the same amount of time as the day before, we got 3x as many--roughly half a gallon.
It was pouring rain and we were completely soaked (but happy!)

By the time we got to the third friend's patch (the next week) we were on a roll.
There weren't as many, but we didn't mind!

We have picked pie cherries twice: once at a neighbor's down the street, and once at a friend's house. (It being the first year, I didn't expect to get any from our tree.)

So....what in the world do you do with a whole bunch of raspberries and pie cherries?

For raspberries, you eat them fresh every way you can think of first. (Of course!)
Pie cherries--you can make some fresh cherry crisp or cherry pie.
After that, you probably want to think about preserving them somehow.

1. The easiest way to preserve them is to freeze them.
Berries and cherries both freeze very well, although I would say sweet cherries are better for freezing on their own. When it comes to pie cherries I add some sugar! (see #2)
Also for the cherries, you may want to cut each one in half after pitting them to make sure you haven't missed any, especially if you plan to use them in smoothies. (Pit slivers in your smoothie = no bueno.)
After they are rinsed (and pitted,) spread them out in a single layer onto a cookie sheet--as big as will fit into your freezer. Freeze them for 2-3 hours.
At that point, scoop them into a Ziplock bag and put them back into the freezer.
(Much easier to use than having a solid block of frozen fruit.)

Fruit frozen this way can still be used in jam later, if you are so inclined, or in baked goods, smoothies, as ice cream toppings, etc.

2. Make freezer jam or freezer pie filling.
If you use Instant Pectin for your freezer jam you don't even have to cook it!
I usually just use the recipe on the inside of the label of the pectin container.
In general, you will need to rinse and mash up your berries (potato mashers work well), before adding the sugar and pectin. Stir it around, let it sit for about 30 minutes, and you're done!
So easy! Put it in freezer-safe containers and call it a day.

You can also use Classic or Low-Sugar Pectin for freezer jam, but you have to cook the jam for a short time. (If you don't do that, the pectin doesn't dissolve and is very gritty. Ask me how I know. Ha!) I don't like the flavor of cooked raspberries as much, so I stick with the Instant for them.

There are a couple of different recipes in the Ball Blue Book for freezer sour cherry pie filling (or just freezing the pie cherries in a sugar syrup.) I did the one where you add cornstarch and sugar, then cook it on the stove for a few minutes to let it thicken.
It makes last-minute dessert so easy and delicious!

3. Experiment!

(L-R: raspberry freezer jam, freezer cherry pie filling, cherry raspberry jam) 

For the first time this year, I made some Sour Cherry-Raspberry Jam, using this recipe from Taste of Home magazine. It is so good! (It is cooked, then processed in a hot-water bath.)
The tart cherry compliments the sweeter raspberries to perfection.
The cooked raspberry flavor that I don't like is all but covered up. Yay!

Our bushes are about done producing for the year, but if we get any more raspberries, I've got a promising-looking recipe for Raspberry Peach Freezer Jam to try next.

Folks, this is going to be good!
[In other news, we might need a bigger freezer...]

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