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Cooking with fruit: Blackberries

by on August 14, 2010
 

I wonder if prehistoric men ever felt the thrill of foraging for food. Perhaps they, in that ancient manner of men viewed their hunting and gathering with purpose and nary a hint of frivolity: to sustain and to provide for themselves and family.

IMG_0793These days and modern times, we forage, not for sustenance but for the love of it. For the thrill of picking your own fruit or vegetables and transforming them into some delightful (or not so ) dish. We adore the essence of it, learning food history and gardening techniques. Discovering when to pick fruit and where, not by the road side where the skins are covered in soot, smog, dust and other unpalatable veneers but to go deep in the forest, walk alongside that deserted road and find your treasure.

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I know how we love our back gardens, some smaller than others. I know the joy I feel that I no longer have to buy mint (at least in the summer) as my little patch is overrun. I know how I feel plucking pointy lemon verbena leaves for my tisanes a few times a week but most of all, it is the fact that these, by the very virtue of my laziness and nature’s providence…are organic. And while snipping herbs from window boxes have their place in fulfillment, no summer is complete without ‘foraging’ for berries even if this is the first summer I’ve done the afore-mentioned and availed myself of nature’s goodness.

IMG_0218Take a gorgeous summer’s day down a lonely quiet lane and pluck berries from brambly bushes till you heart and hands are scratched and washed with gorgeous red juices.

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Long to get a ladder to climb to the top of the bushes, or a canoe or swimming trunks to wade in the waters were the plumpest, juiciest blackberries lie….just outside your reach.

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Even your rake and pointy stick can’t help bring these berry-laden branches to you.

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Step in the undergrowth and with your very sensible walking shoes, stamp off the army of ants, invading your hairy limbs.

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Struggle hard to untangle your broderie anglaise dress from the prickly stems, each step and every stretch of the hand filling your large bowls. {BTW, that’s not me or my dress :-)}

IMG_0204Anyhow, pluck and pick berries till you have no room left in your head to conceive more recipes for blackberries. Like blackberry vinegar.

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And crumbles with tart apples.

IMG_0290Attempt to make a jam – futilely….because I forgot that seeded blackberry jam is not the way to go. The seeds are hard, get stuck between your teeth and generally interrupt what could have been a pleasant dining experience.

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Take them home and stare at them, mentally calculating just how much you ‘saved’ by not buying them at Albert Heijn or Tesco’s or Walmart- at least 10 or 20 euros or pounds or dollars. Then smile that smile of satisfaction and put them away. Wake up the next morning and panic not when you see your berries covered with tiny fruit worms. Though you may think disaster is at hand, shrug the thought away and rinse them in salt. {I soaked them in a mix of salt and water for a few minutes, rinsing well a couple of times and then checking each individual berry before plunking it my bowl to begin with the recipes I planned.}

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On another note, I am thrilled with some recent news brought by my family (they are still here)- namely that temperate fruits such as strawberries and grapes and more can now be found across Nigeria, home grown in the cold, mountainous northern regions and sold down south, where we used to live – only one reason I’d love to go back home, now, to enjoy sun-kissed and blushed strawberries.

On offer this week, with my blackberries are:

Recipe #1

Blackberry Verbena vinegar, adapted from a 1900s raspberry vinegar recipe in Amanda Hesser’s recipe redux

Makes about 1 quart

Ingredients

1 cup red-wine vinegar
1 1/2 quarts freshly picked blackberries (I used the remains of my blackberry pulp from my granita – recipe follows)
6 Lemon verbena leaves, bruised (optional)
Sugar

Tips

  • I was reluctant to use sugar but I thought about its preserving qualities and caved in
  • When you leave the blackberries to macerate, put a lid on the pan. I was surprised to see and smell the strong pungent smell of vinegar every time I lifted the lid off. My girls said it was a ‘bad’ smell and I had to convince them otherwise

How to

In a nonreactive bowl, combine the vinegar, blackberries and lemon verbena leaves. Cover and let macerate for 3 days.

After 3 days, mash the blackberry mixture in the bowl, then strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. To every 1 cup of juice, add ½ pound of sugar (1¼ cups plus 1 tablespoon).

Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and simmer (gently!) for 15 minutes. Let cool, then bottle. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 months.

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To serve, add 1 teaspoon raspberry vinegar to a tumbler filled with ice. Add water, sparkling water, rum, brandy or prosecco. There were other delightful recipes, namely a float and a dressing on a tart that I’m desperate to try!

I notice that my vinegar is slightly ‘gelled’ , though when you stir it together, it becomes liquid. Initial tasting sessions spell promise. Coming to you soon.

Recipe #2

Frozen Honey Yogurt with Blackberry Granita


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Frozen Honey Yogurt

Ingredients, for 2 portions

1 cup Greek or Turkish yogurt
Honey/Agave/Maple syrup to taste

How to

In a freezer safe bowl, whisk the yogurt and add your liquid sweetener of choice to sweeten. Freeze till hard.

Let soften 10/15 minutes before you serve.

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Blackberry Granita

Ingredients, for 2 portions

1 cup blackberries, gently crushed
3/4 – 1 cup water
Honey/Agave/Maple syrup/Sugar to taste

How to

Simmer  the blackberries, water and sweetener for 10 minutes.

When ready, press down pulpy bits through a sieve, reserving liquid {I used the leftover pulp in my vinegar recipe, rather than dispensing with it}.

Pour a thin layer of the liquid into a freezer safe baking dish {I used a brownie pan}. Freeze for a couple of hours, checking on it often and raking through it with a fork every time it looks like the liquid is freezing, maybe every half hour. You don’t want long shards of fruits, but small frozen flakes and crumbles, so keep an eye on it. In my case, regardless of how long it froze, because I used liquid sweetener, my granita resulted in a soft, somewhat slushy texture which was DELICIOUS. Obviously, sugar helps the frozen texture of the granita.

The combination of the frozen yogurt and the granita was heavenly. IT took me right back to my childhood, where most Sunday afternoons after church, the ice cream men would be waiting outside the gates, their mini coolers attached to bicycles would be full of packs of frozen yogurt called ‘Yogo’, which we lapped up. And when I had children, the tradition continued. My daughters would wait patiently till service came to an end and they would look up at us, large, excited eyes begging……..and I would cave in and buy some, for them and for us. These were memories I had completely forgotten about till one taste brought it all back.

I loved the freshness of the yogurt, even though mine had hardened considerably and ended up being the granita :-), so if you ever want to make a yogurt granita, there it is. It was perfect, the clean yogurt taste went with the extremely fruitiness of the blackberry granita. I’m thinking this may well replace my comfort food of yogurt and jam.IMG_0767

It is also perfect for a dinner party dessert when you have a large crowd at yours: essentially…assemble in pretty glasses. Which is why I’m sending this on the Meeta’s Monthly mingle hosted by Sara of Sara’s corner this month with a ‘Party Treats’ theme.

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If you want tips on foraging for fruit or picking your own (black)berries, visit this website.

Here are some lovely recipes & photos from other bloggers celebrating (foraged) blackberries.:

Jeanne of Cooksister foraged fruit, including blackberries and two sorts of plums
Megan of Feasting on Art and I were on the same wavelength – Blackberry and Honey frozen yogurt
Krista of Rambling Tart enjoyed sun kissed  blackberries
Mowie’s Blackberry & Ginger Granita  guest post on Souvlaki for the soul

This is heading off to Weekend herb blogging #246, started by Kalyn , run by Haalo of Cook (almost) Anything at Least Once and this week hosted by Katie from Eat This!

Have you had your blackberries this season? What do you do with them? Let me know all and prettige weekend (Dutch for have a pleasant weekend!)

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  • August 18, 2010 at 6:49 AM

    The blackberry granita got my attention – actually, you had it before that. I am growing these very berries in my raspberry patch. They were labelled as Black Raspberries last year – and I was curious. They are huge and wild and they ripen much later than the raspberries…. but I cannot wait. I will have lots, and this is my first harvest. And now – I have your recipes!
    :)
    Valerie

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  • August 17, 2010 at 10:33 PM

    Thanks for your comments – this is the stuff summer adventures are made off :-), even if the summers are extrememly wet! LOL

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  • August 17, 2010 at 4:02 PM

    I love all the recipes… great work scouting them out for us.. especially that vinegar… can’t wait to try it! I bet it would be great as a syrup(sans vinegar) too!

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  • August 17, 2010 at 8:02 AM

    Great looking pics! I also don’t like seeds in my preserves either. I strain the seeds out and make a blackberry jelly…so much better! I think your blackberry granita looks really good and would definitely make it next time!

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  • August 17, 2010 at 6:34 AM

    we picked these in our backyard where they grow wild every year, ou fav vhildhood memory, the frozen yogurt withblackberry granita, Imut try ths…ahh lovely post as always..

    sweetlife

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  • August 17, 2010 at 12:36 AM

    Yes, the blackberries in the wild are blooming too over here!

    I so love your tasty blackberry recipes!! So tasty & apart,…especially that verbena & blackberry vinegar!

    COOL too!

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  • August 16, 2010 at 7:11 AM

    I love blackberries. Always on the look out for new recipes. Thanks for sharing.

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  • August 16, 2010 at 5:07 AM

    Hi, Thank you for the wonderful post. Thanks for the entry to the event.

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  • August 16, 2010 at 1:57 AM

    Blackberry-picking is the stuff of childhood books – but not the scratches and ants! Love the sound of the blackberry granita, especially when it’s paired with the yoghurt.

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  • August 15, 2010 at 8:55 PM

    I love blackberries and cannot wait to check out your yummy suggestions, the blackberry vinegar sounds amazing.
    Every time I think of blackberries though I think of my hubby. We were at his sister’s place, and they had just moved into a new home with a back yard overgrown with blackberries. We collected those beauties and were determined not to waste any. My husband was convinced I was crazy to want to add sugar to the blackberry tarts I was making, and was determined to show us how sweet his was going to be with just blackberries. Can I tell you how sour that was? We did not have enough vanilla ice cream to sweeten that pie up, and my jaw hurts just thinking about how it involuntarily clenched from the tartness. I am sure your vinegar is like that but then you did it on purpose =)

    Reply

    • August 17, 2010 at 10:31 PM

      Oyster Culture….I can feel my mouth pinch with the tartness…………

      On the other hand, he learnt right?

      And the blackberry vinegar isn’t so tart – the sourness of the vinegar and berries are well offset by the sugar, without ruining the characteristic flavours

      Reply

  • August 15, 2010 at 8:12 PM

    I love fresh blackberries, we’ve been to some ‘U-pick farms’ where we end up with tons for jam, syrup and general eating. I’ll have to try this!

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  • August 15, 2010 at 7:34 PM

    You continue to amaze me, dear KB. We must get together sometime and discuss blackberry patches, photography, and memories of berry picking back home.

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  • August 15, 2010 at 2:53 PM

    What a delightful post this is. Lovely and juicy and full of goodness :)

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  • August 15, 2010 at 9:57 AM

    I used to pluck these as a child off the side of the road and I still get a thrill when I spot them in the bush; too early now, but I am watching them like a hawk! Love your vinegar recipe with the verbena; we have a huge verbena bush and of course these wild berries getting plumper by the day. Nice.1

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  • August 15, 2010 at 1:45 AM

    I must make some fruit vinegar after reading this. My you are the trooper to weather those ants!

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  • August 15, 2010 at 1:31 AM

    The Blackberry vinegar looks wonderful, the ants …. not so much…., but then the foraging down country lanes made me feel all wistful for summer and childhood. Adored your post, I remember staying with a friend whose parents had a mulberry tree, we stayed up that tree until our faces, hands and most of our clothing seemed spotted with mulberry juice…. aaahhh, the memories.
    Cheers
    Anna

    Reply

  • August 15, 2010 at 12:30 AM

    The blackberry granita looks great! I just did a post on blackberries yesterday and have more lined up, im using them alot this year! thanks for the great recipes and beautiful photos to match! x

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  • Krista
    August 14, 2010 at 11:42 PM

    I love your blackberry ramble, dear Ozoz! :-) I’m hoping to head out and do the same if I’m feeling better in a couple of days. :-) I love all your snazzy recipes – especially that vinegar. I need to make that!!! :-) Hope you have a fabulous weekend with your family! :-)

    Reply

  • August 14, 2010 at 10:46 PM

    Sounds like the thorns and the ants and the bleeding was all worth it, Oz! We don’t grow blackberries here, so I devoured every word of this post with relish.. :)

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  • Engeline Henny
    August 14, 2010 at 9:31 PM

    Hi,
    I am making blackberry jam at the moment!
    I picked them today! 800 gram. I think enough for 3 jars/potten? We’ll see.
    You donot use lemon or lemonzest??
    Can you sent your blackberry-mail/story to my cousin
    clhettinga@hotmail.nl (or com) I think nl. Thanks. She will love it.

    Reply

  • August 14, 2010 at 8:52 PM

    This post was beautiful…I loved following you along on your outdoor adventure, and then into your kitchen where you created some beautiful blackberry treats. I love making my own vinaigrettes, so I will be certainly giving that vinegar recipe a try!

    Reply

  • August 14, 2010 at 5:05 PM

    Fantastic, I’m not the only one with hairy limbs! Blackberries, yum-o!

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  • August 14, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    I remember picking them in my friends backyard when I was a child. Eating them, unwashed, with unabashed joy. Thank you for bringing back those precious memories.

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  • August 14, 2010 at 1:36 PM

    I like the raspberry vinaigrette recipe – thanks for this Oz – I’m going to try this.

    Reply

  • August 14, 2010 at 1:21 PM

    I have seen the black berries along the Rhein river here, but dare not to pick them up. Not sure they are really edible or same like the one I bought from the supermarkets.
    Poor gal, you have just attracted all the ants.

    Reply

  • August 14, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    Mmmm, yoghurt with berries would be great for people who love tart flavours like myself. And, gosh, look at all those ants!

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  • August 14, 2010 at 9:34 AM

    The yogurt sounds fantastic. Bet it would pair well with blackberries any way they come. We haven’t done a thing with those berries this season. Shame!

    Reply

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