Thursday, August 28, 2014

Foraging for Blackberries

Before moving to Washington State last year, I didn't realize how prolific blackberries are in the Pacific North West.  The brambles can be found growing just about everywhere...including in some of my flowerbeds where I'd prefer them not to be.  We have a few different areas where the vines have gone wild, but luckily they haven't completely invaded our property.  Don't get me wrong, I love blackberries, but would rather not get tangled in them while trying to clear some our land to use for farm animals.

Fortunately, we have a local park where blackberry brambles surround a large grassy field.  We've successfully filled our harvest basket twice this month.  The third time we weren't so lucky.  My daughter and I spent 2 hours picking berries, wincing in pain, pulling thorns from our hands and clothing and nearly getting stung by a swarm of bees and barely reached the half-way point of filling the basket.  And the worst part- I had to throw all of those berries in the compost the following day.  I can't describe the feeling except that it made me nauseated....for 2 reasons.  1~ We worked so hard picking those berries, two hours of cooking ourselves in the sun along with the pains listed above.  2~ The larva. Eww the larva!  The following morning the berries were full of insect larva!  It was disgusting.  I'm assuming since it was getting later into the season, the fruit flies had begun laying their eggs on the berries.  I'll have to  remember that next year and be sure to pick early in the season...and watch for bees nests as well.

Picking blackberries in the parking area

I still wish we could have kept the berries from the 3rd picking.  I used all of the berries from the first 2 days and didn't save any for the freezer.  I did make jams and syrup however, so we'll be enjoying the berries through the winter regardless. 

The filled basket from day 1.  So delicious!

The basket again about a week later

Blackberry Cobbler

Blackberry cobbler

I was able to make a blackberry cobbler twice.  This is my Go-To recipe for cobblers.  It works for berries, peaches, apples, etc and is very easy.  I use one bowl and a baking dish.  I mix up the filling in a large bowl, pour it into the baking dish, wash the bowl and mix up the topping.  It's quick and doesn't make a huge mess in the kitchen.

1 cup sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 Tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg OR 1/2 tsp cinnamon
4-5 cups blueberries (or any other berries, peaches, apples, etc)

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 Tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 egg, slightly beaten
3 Tbsp milk
3 Tbsp sugar

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In large bowl stir together all filling ingredients except fruit. Stir in fruit and pour into 13x9 or similar size pan.  Wash bowl and stir together all cobbler ingredients except butter, egg, and milk.  Cut in butter until crumbly,  Stir in egg and milk just until moistened.  Crumble mixture over fruit; sprinkle with 3 Tbsp sugar.  Bake 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly around edges.
Serve with sweetened whip cream or vanilla ice cream.  8 servings

Blackberry Sonker

I also wanted to try a new recipe that I had come across in Ashley English's "A Year of Pies".  You can find her info {here}.  Anyway, I had never heard of a "sonker" until I found this recipe.  According to Ashley's book, a sonker is a type of deep-dish cobbler-like pie native to North Carolina and is served with a custard-like sauce.  It has a few more ingredients than the simple cobbler above, but was easy to make and was simply delicious.  

Blackberry Sonker with melted butter drizzled over the top, ready for the oven

Blackberry Sonker just out of the oven

Blackberry Sonker with the dip ready for serving

Blackberry Jams & Syrups

I also spent a couple days in the kitchen making Blackberry jams and syrup.  I was able to make:
5- half-pints Blackberry & Sage Jam 
4- half pints Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup
9- half pints Blackberry & Lime Freezer Jam
6- half pints Blackberry & Orange Freezer Jam

We'll be enjoying these with homemade biscuits, pancakes & waffles. 

~ Gingered Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup ~ Blackberry & Sage Jam ~
~ Blackberry Orange Jam ~ Blackberry Lime Jam~

~ Gingered Pinot Noir & Blackberry Syrup ~ Blackberry & Sage Jam ~
~ Blackberry Orange Jam ~ Blackberry Lime Jam~

Hope you're able to preserve some of Summer's fruits to enjoy through the cold Winter.  Check back tomorrow for a little bit about blueberries.

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