A few years ago I bought a bottle of black raspberry vinegar from Montgomery Place Orchards in the Hudson Valley, as a gift for my cousin and his girlfriend in Germany. They liked it so much that I bought a second bottle for my next visit, but then had to tell them this would be the last one, because after our daughter graduated, we would no longer make frequent trips to Annandale-on-Hudson. I suspect one of the motives of my cousin and his now wife for spending their summer vacation in the US this year is to load up on black raspberry vinegar… There are no black raspberries in Germany, they are a North American specialty.
We have a few black raspberries on our grounds, usually not enough to get excited about. This year however seemed different. I spotted brambles full of berries and picked a handful for fruit tart the other day, making a note to myself to get more. It took me a few days to work up the energy to leave my cool office and actually do it – in 90 degrees Fahrenheit and 55 percent humidity, covered up head to toe with boots, long sleeves, hat, protective glasses, and gloves. Even the dog, usually following me everywhere and inching forward with me sphinx-style when I pick strawberries, preferred to stay in the house.
For a good hour or so, I disappeared into the thicket. It was work but I picked more berries than I had hoped for. And I even found a large patch of blackberries, to return to in August. I don’t think I have had this explorer/discoverer feeling since I was a kid. When I came back to the house I was filthy and slightly scratched yet exhilarated and happy.
Of course the black raspberries had to go into black raspberry vinegar. For all that effort, I want something lasting. For instant gratification, there were enough berries left for a quick dessert for two.
I had made raspberry vinegar before, according to a recipe from the River Cottage Preserves Handbook, and found it a bit too sweet. This time I followed the recipe recently posted by Phoebe’s Pure Food.
It remains to be seen if the black raspberry vinegar will be as good as the one I gave away as a gift. Maybe knowing that it was made with the berries I foraged will make up for the difference in taste.