Article Contributed by C. Jodlowski.
We moved into our house at the beginning of February, about 15 years ago. We were young, inexperienced homeowners lacking a lot of the things we needed to run a household. Furniture. Kitchen utensils. A snowblower. And that winter, it snowed. And snowed. And snowed. I recall spending a lot of time outside shoveling. In fact, I don’t recall spending much time at all that winter inside with my wife and newborn son. Just outside. Shoveling. And in between the shoveling, dealing with everything an old house could throw at me: plumbing problems. Electrical problems. Heating problems. And more shoveling.
Spring did eventually come around and we began the task of fighting back the edges of nature that had begun their march into a yard for which no one had cared in quite some time. Trees starting to grow out of the patio, acorns piled up in the gutters and long, spiny twigs growing up out of the hill behind the house. It was well into summer before our advance made it back to the edge of the woods and into the thorns.
For all their spiky defenses, they came out easily with the pull of a gloved hand and I’d gotten a few out before I noticed it – a flash of red down in the thicket. I stopped and pushed a few stalks back to reveal a cluster of deep red berries bouncing from the end of stem. Normally I’m not inclined to pop strange berries into my mouth, but I knew this one. Everyone knows this one. A wild fruit with no toxic imposters. Rubus strigosus. Red raspberries. I stood up and looked across the patch in front of me. And then across the yard to the other border. And to the edge of the woods across the street. They were everywhere.
Had the previous owner known these were here? Had the real estate agent? Why was this not on the listing of “features” between “rustic charm” and “handyman’s dream?” I traded my loppers for a bucket and spent the rest of the afternoon picking wild berries in my own yard. Over the next two weeks I gathered and ate and cooked with and froze pint after pint. I felt as though everything the house and I had faced off over in the last 6 months was forgiven. It was all a test and I’d passed and was now collecting my prize.
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The raspberries surrounding my yard are a little different from the ones I’m used to overpaying for in the store. They’re smaller by about half and instead of the dull, pinkish finish, they are a much deeper red with a jewel-like luster. Their size makes for more work to collect the same volume but also make for a great job that my kids, over the years, proved was better suited to their tiny fingers over my clumsy, sausage-like hands.
The sweetness of summer berries is soured only by their fleeting nature. For about two weeks each year, we’ve been able to spend weekend mornings together filling a container here and a bucket there, gathering some for now and more for later. And while frozen berries aren’t quite the same as the original, they’re better than no berries at all. After dealing with the disappointing clumpy mess that comes out when all of the berries are frozen together in the same bag, we learned that spending just a little more time now pays off when we pull them out later in the year.
To freeze the berries you manage not to eat immediately, spread them out on a baking sheet that will fit in your freezer and leave them in there until they’ve hardened. (Throw the bag in which you’ll store them into the freezer to chill as well.) In about an hour you’ll have a sheet full of ruby-red pea gravel. Quickly scoop it into the bag and get them back into the freezer to hibernate until they’re needed. Having been frozen individually, it’s easier to open the bag and grab a handful at any point for sauce, pancakes or a cool “hard candy” later in August. Keep in mind that as they defrost, they’ll still become mushy and watery and may need to be drained if you plan to use them for baking. But when you’re out shoveling in February, coming in to the smell of raspberry pancakes brings just a hint of July to the morning.
My boys are older now and able to help with the shoveling in the winter. Getting them to climb around in thorns in the heat is a different story. I have, however, devised a barter system to get my berries out of them: pick some today and get pancakes tomorrow. And it works every time.
Raspberry Lemon Pancakes
- 2 cups All Purpose Flour
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 1/2 cups milk
- ½ cup of plain yogurt
- 2 large eggs, beaten
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- Zest of ½ of a lemon
- 2 cups raspberries
- Butter for cooking
- Maple Syrup (If you can, use the real stuff)
- Whisk the milk and yogurt together and set aside.
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Form a well by piling the dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl, making a depression in the middle and set the bowl aside.
- In a medium bowl, whisk the milk and yogurt mixture into the beaten eggs. Slowly add the melted butter, whisking as you pour. Mix in the lemon zest.
- Add the liquid to the bowl of dry ingredients and mix in with as few strokes as possible. (Don’t worry about lumps.) Add the raspberries and mix just a couple more times to distribute them throughout the batter.
- I like to use a cast iron griddle, but use whatever your go-to pancake pan may be. Melt butter in your pan and when it foams, pour about ¾ of a cup of batter into the pan (if your butter is smoking, turn down the heat.) Watch the pancakes until they start to bubble and when the bubbles pop and it looks to have started to set, flip and brown the other side for a few minutes.
- To save time in the future, you can pre-mix the dry ingredients and store them in a zip lock bag or air-tight container. Then just scoop out 2 cups. You can also make more pancakes than you need and freeze them. Let them cool to room temperature and then layer them between sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. Wrap the entire bunch in aluminum foil and then put the foil package in a freezer bag.
About the Author
Chris came to hunting later in life than most, but over the last 20 years he’s developed it from pastime to passion to way of life. He now hunts and cooks just about everything a season will allow and is always looking for the next adventure. Along with hunting, he fishes and wanders New York’s Hudson Valley and beyond gathering wild and regionally grown produce, living his belief that the very best food is local food. He enjoys spending time outdoors with his boys, teaching them self-reliance and sharing with them the joy of sitting down to a well-earned meal.