Black Caps: Free Food from the Forest

We have been having some extremely damp and steamy weather in the last week or so. It is very uncomfortable for us humans, but the berries are spectacular this year. They, like my “disturbed” neighbor across the street, thrive in this sauna-like atmosphere. (I’ve called across the street each day this week, “Hey R___, is this hot enough for you yet?” and he always replies, “Nope,” and goes on with whatever he was doing. Today, I told him I wasn’t even going to ASK my question, and he commented, “I love this weather,” and continued with his work.)

My husband and I walked back into the woods and picked a mess of black raspberries (black caps) the day before the present heat wave hit. We have a 160-acre country park one block away from our house. It wraps around our neighborhood and several access points are only a short walk from our house. We put on long pants and hats, grabbed a couple of ice cream pails, and headed out before breakfast.

They have been renovating the park, creating prairie, cutting brush, and breaking new walking trails. In the process, they disturbed a lot of our old berry-picking haunts. Since this is such a good year for berries even though they are a little late, we were still able to find more than enough fruit for pancake sauce, pie, smoothies, and our morning cereal.

Other years, I have also made jam and frozen berries for eating during the depths of winter. This year the berries ripened too close to 4-H Fair. We only had time for one picking. I made a no-cook pie and some sauce for pancakes. You can make quantities of this sauce and freeze what you don’t use immediately to use later to top pancakes, cheese cake, or ice cream.

Black Raspberry Sauce

  • 2 cups Black Raspberries (or any other berry)
  • 3/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Water
  • 1 tablespoons Corn Starch
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Dash of salt

Bring water to a boil in a 2-quart sauce pan, and then add berries. Combine dry ingredients and stir into water and berries when they return to a boil. Cook, stirring continuously until mixture thickens. Stir in lemon juice. This recipe makes about 2 ¾ cups sauce.

One of nice things about the berries being ready at fair time was that my daughter was able to use them to make a pie that she brought to the 4-H Food Revue. She earned a blue ribbon with this single-crust pie.

Black Raspberry Peach Pie

Crust:

  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 4 cups flour
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable shortening

1.       Sift together dry ingredients.

2.       Cut in shortening.

3.       Whisk together wet ingredients and add to shortening mixture.

4.       Mix with a fork until wet and dry ingredients are combined and you can gather the dough into a ball and turn onto a lightly floured surface.

5.       Divide dough into four parts, and use one portion for the bottom crust for a 9-inch pie.

The other three portions can be wrapped and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen to be used later. (This recipe makes two double-crust pies or four single-crust pies.) This is a good medium-flake crust for beginners, as it will take handling and still cook up flakey. I also use this recipe for pasties.

Filling:

  • 4 cups of fruit (in this case, 2 cups peaches and 2 cups black raspberries)
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ¾ cup sugar (You could use less because the topping is very sweet. It all depends on how big a sweet tooth you possess!)
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoons of quick tapioca
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1.       Combine dry ingredients.

2.       Sprinkle lemon juice over fruit and toss lightly with a fork.

3.       Add dry ingredients to fruit and toss lightly with a fork to combine.

4.       Pour into crust.

Topping:

  • 1 ½ cups quick oat meal
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ cup melted margarine or butter

1.       Combine dry ingredients and mix well.

2.       Pour melted butter or margarine over dry mixture and mix until crumbly and combined.

3.       Sprinkle over top of fruit.

Bake at 425°F for 35 to 40 minutes until filling bubbles and topping is browned. Cover top of pie with foil for the last 10 minutes of baking if the topping is getting too brown.

Don’t be afraid to pick wild berries and enjoy them. There is a lot of free produce out there that only requires a little time and effort to gather for your family’s next meal. Be sure to ask permission if you will be picking on private land, and be sure that the parks you pick in allow it. (In some protected areas no picking of any kind is allowed.) Begonia

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