Berry Delicious - A Guide to Making Raspberry Soda
We went away for eight days. That’s not a huge amount of time, but the garden literally transformed itself while we were gone. When we left for vacation it was lush and full of promise, but when we got back it felt like the holidays. There were presents everywhere.
The patty pan squash was plentiful. The pumpkin and zucchini squash blossoms transformed into huge flowers with the most oustanding pale pumpkin color I’ve ever seen. Cucumbers, spinach, peas, lettuce, arugula were all out in abundance. But the best surprise of all: hundreds of ripe raspberries waiting, begging to be picked.
Despite the heat I actually put on long pants and a hat and went out with a big bowl and starting picking. The sight of those plump pink berries, literally dripping off the vines, fragrant with possibility, made me smile. "Damn the heat, keep picking!" I thought. And within an hour my bowl was piled high with berries.
Raspberries don’t like to sit around. In fact they pretty much hate it. So I set out to work. First step: a pie. A beautiful pink raspberry pie with a buttery lattice topping. Second step: freeze berries for winter pies (see tips below). Third step: a reward. Homemade raspberry soda. Try it. There are few drinks more refreshing on a hot summer day. At night you can add your favorite mix (think rum or vodka), watch the fireflies, check out the stars, and make a wish that summer might last forever.
Step 1: Pick the berries
Step 2: Make the syrup. Boil 1 cup water with ½ cup sugar for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups fresh raspberries (or blueberries, blackberries or strawberries) and simmer over moderate heat for 10 minutes.
Step 3: Cool the syrup for 5 minutes.
Step 4: Place the berries and liquid in a strainer set over a wide glass or bowl and strain the berries through, pushing down to extract all the liquid. Let cool. Makes about 1 ¼ cups.
Step 5: Make Raspberry Soda: add 1 to 2 tablespoons syrup to a tall glass. Add ice and then about a cup of seltzer water. Garnish with a few fresh raspberries.
The syrup can also be added (a tablespoon or two goes a long way) to fruit salads, pie fillings, or mixed drinks --- try 1 ½ tablespoons raspberry syrup mixed with ½ cup seltzer and a good splash of vodka or rum garnished with fresh mint leaves.Store in a tightly sealed jar and refrigerate for up to five days. Or it can be placed in small plastic containers, jars, or ice cube trays and frozen for several months.
Berry Freezing Tips:
Berries can be frozen successfully if you follow one simple step. Pick fresh berries — go on, keep picking, you’ll be glad in January — and place the stemmed berries on a cookie sheet. Place in the freezer, making sure the berries don’t touch one another or clump up. Freeze for about one hour, or until almost frozen. Remove from the freezer, separate each berry, and then place in a tightly-sealed plastic bag or plastic container. The berries won’t clump up into one big mass if you pre-freeze them before bagging. Freeze for several months.