A Palmful of Pleasure
by Kathy Humphrey
Think small, black, multi-faceted objects. Think good taste and universal appeal. Think multiple applications, excellent value, and the fact that once you start, it’s difficult to stop. Think... blackberry! I’m talking about the fruit here, not the ubiquitous gadget hooked on belt-loops, clutched to ears, and murmured into intimately, everywhere and anywhere one goes.
Blackberries (like most other deeply coloured fruits and vegetables) are full of antioxidants which help your brain—unlike the gadget! Blackberries are considered by many to be weeds, which means that they grow rampant and are often available to the first hardy picker. August is blackberry season: anyone equipped with buckets, gloves and tolerance for a few double-edged barbs can come away with loads of luscious fruit.
Timing your picking can be tricky—it is a delicate art to get out and harvest after the berries have soaked up enough sunshine to render them replete with sweetness and before the rains start up again. Part of the timing is being ready to process the berries as soon as you are home again, gathering straight from the source means that it is liable to be more in need of cleaning and sorting than fruit plucked from the produce department’s shelf. Juicy berries are susceptible to mould spores, so it’s important not to let them sit for too long.
Blackberries freeze well. To avoid crushing the berries, I place them on cookie sheets until frozen and then package them. If it won’t matter how crushed they are, then simply measure out specific quantities directly into containers and pop into the freezer. Blackberry pies are fabulous things to have frozen, ready to pull out in dreary November. Toss five or six cups of blackberries with one half cup flour, one third cup sugar and a couple of teaspoons of cinnamon and spoon the lot into a prepared pie shell, dot with a few dabs of butter and you have heaven in a crust.
Jam, or jelly (if you have the energy to sieve) is another way to enjoy the sweet heat of August all through the year. Use the berries in fruit salads, smoothies, or as substitutes in any recipes that called for fresh berries. Take your family and spend some time away from your electronic leash—go out into the real world and pick some blackberries!
2 lbs berries, cleaned (can mix blackberries with raspberries)
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup sugar (less if berries are extremely ripe & sweet)
1 lemon, juice only
Place half of the berries in a large saucepan with vanilla, sugar and lemon juice. Place on medium low heat and bring just to a simmer. Remove from heat; stir in remaining berries. Delicious with angel food cake, over yogurt or ice cream, or with créme fraiche.
1 1/2 cups flour, 1 Tbsp reserved
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup mashed banana
2/3 cup yogurt
1/4 cup oil
1 cup blackberries, cleaned & sorted
Preheat oven to 400˚F. Stir dry ingredients together. In small bowl, sprinkle blackberries with 1 Tbsp flour; gently stir, then fold into dry ingredients. In separate bowl, blend together banana, yogurt, oil and eggs. Pour blended moist ingredients into dry and stir just until mixed. Fill greased muffin tins; bake about 20 minutes (till golden brown, springy in centre & slightly pulling away from edges of tins).
Hot Blackberry Sauce
1 cup fresh, clean blackberries
4 Tbsp granulated sugar
juice of half a lemon
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tsp cold water
Place berries, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar and water into small saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down, and simmer for several minutes. Remove from heat; stir in cornstarch mixture. Serve hot, over ice cream, frozen yogurt, or sponge cake.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup pecans, finely chopped (optional)
3 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
4 apples, peeled, cored & sliced
3/4 cup blackberries, fresh or frozen
1/4 cup sugar
Preheat oven to 375˚F. Mix brown sugar, bread crumbs, flour, butter, pecans, 2 tsp cinnamon and nutmeg in large bowl. Using fingers, rub mixture together until lumpy. Toss apples, blackberries, sugar & remaining cinnamon together until fruit is well coated. Pour fruit into greased baking dish. Sprinkle topping over: bake until apples are cooked & topping crisp (about 45 minutes). Serve hot or warm, with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.
1 cup blackberries
2 peaches, peeled, seeded, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp cinnamon
1 small knob of ginger, peeled, chopped
1 small jalapeño, seeded, chopped (optional)
1-2 Tbsp vegetable oil
In a saucepan, heat oil and sauté the onions and the garlic. Add the jalapeño and ginger and sauté a few minutes more. Add in the cinnamon, vinegar, brown sugar and peaches. Keep sautéing until the peaches are soft. Add blackberries. Cook, stirring occasionally and crushing the fruits with the back of a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and let cool. Strain into a container and serve with chicken, fish, or whatever tickles your fancy.
Kathy Humphrey lives in Victoria with her husband and two children. She tries to see cooking for a family not as a chore but as a creative outlet.