Artusi’s July: Raspberry Acetosa
July in Tuscany. The heat is the sort that you cannot get away from. If you live in the city, it’s especially unbearable. Hot African wind blows its way into cities, heating them up like a giant hairdryer. The ancient stones of the palazzi and squares bake in the sun and the heat lingers on for hours after midnight. Anyone smart and organised enough has escaped to the sea or the mountains. Those who haven’t, can’t or are waiting until the traditional August exodus have to try to remain cool. I find this particularly difficult to do in the kitchen. Anything to avoid turning on the oven (seeing as the house already is one) or standing in front of sizzling pan becomes obligatory if you want to survive July.
This is why I love Tuscan menus in the summer. Forget the stove. Out comes farro salad or panzanella, with fragrant basil, the sharp, reviving effect of vinegar and the juiciest tomatoes of the season. You can even get away with a light lunch of just a plate of thin, melt in the mouth prosciutto and juicy melons or figs – quite possibly one of life’s most satisfying combination of flavours. Apparently even Artusi thought so too. In his suggestions for lunch in the hot month of July, he lists prosciutto and figs (which needs no recipe) as one of the starters.
Another brilliantly cool suggestion Artusi makes is to serve the rather retro raspberry gelatin for dessert. It involves only a few minutes at the stove to prepare a syrup base, well worth it for this easy, light summer dessert that instantly evokes childhood memories. Artusi notes adds at the end of his recipe that it’s “popular with the ladies.” While reading through the recipe for raspberry gelatin, however, I came across something that I could not go past, something rather curious, which Artusi called Acetosa di lampone, recipe no. 724. This raspberry acetosa is not actually much of a recipe, but rather, a couple of sentences that briefly describe this variation of a raspberry syrup where a dash of very good red wine vinegar is added according to your taste, which is partly what I love about this cookbook.
It is a refreshing, reviving syrup, and that little kick of vinegar makes it the perfect base for unique summer cocktails or for jazzing up a berry trifle, some vanilla ice cream or crepes – the options are endless. If you’d like to see how you can use the raspberry acetosa to make a classy mojito, do check out my recipe on food52.
- Equal amounts (weight rather than volume) of fresh raspberries, water and sugar.
- Some very good red wine vinegar, to taste
Place the sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Let the syrup boil gently for 10 minutes.
In the meantime, squeeze the raspberries through a fine sieve to separate the seeds from the pulp and juice. Discard the seeds and place the juice/pulp in a bowl and set aside.
When the syrup has boiled, add directly into the bowl with the raspberries along with the vinegar. You may want to first just add 1 tablespoon of vinegar at a time, taste, then adjust. I found 2 tablespoons to each 50 grams of fresh raspberries to be pleasantly acidic while not being overpowering. Set aside and allow to cool.
If you make this in larger quantities you can keep this bottled and stored in the fridge for quite some time (the sugar and the vinegar act as preservatives).