Raspberries in January
There’s little in this amazing world of flavours that gets me as excited as the one that is currently approaching perfect ripeness. The Scottish raspberry. It has long been my favourite fruit, possibly even my favourite flavour and it’s not that all too common a trait of parochialism that inspires me to tag the simple little red berry; more a mixture of nostalgia and extensive if not wholly scientific research. I’ve tasted many raspberries from many countries. And the violet scented and flavoured tart yet sweet fruits from my home country are simply unbeatable to me. They have fought hard for their sunshine, survived wind and rain that strikes fear into many a more sturdy species and then presented themselves between their little thorns; some shyly avoiding detection, some with a gallus swagger in the welcome summer sun begging to become jam or crumble or even just bathed in double cream.
Raspberries are an ever present in my life, a flavour of happy memories and safety. They remind me of summer evenings just as school broke up and we’d pick our own at the local farm then head home for Mum to make jam. Eagerly awaiting the wobble on the plate as the kitchen filled with the heady aromas of raspberries alongside strawberries and blackcurrants. The atmosphere almost edible and seemingly dripping with juice. But it was always the phenomenal deep red raspberry that grabbed my attention, feeling like the downtrodden number two of the summer berry hierarchy, the underdog against the more favoured strawberry. But never for me. While strawberries and cream signal an English summer, in this heart the raspberry is king in Scotland.
How strange it is then that when the summer warmth and seemingly endless days are long forgotten and snow covers the landscape, when the sun barely caresses the horizon, that the raspberry makes it’s most welcome and famous appearance. I’m virtually certain Robert Burns never ate raspberries in January. But the greatest of Scottish desserts brings a little bit of sunshine on 25th January and Burns Night is celebrated. Cranachan is like a homage to the raspberry, a shock of colour against ingredients seemingly bland in appearance yet redolent in flavour. The jewel in my Scottish crown of flavour brings summer to life, and when its little heart is thawed out it brings light to a winter table. Raspberries in January are a delight but when eaten in summer sunshine they evoke both emotion and inspiration.