A couple of weeks ago I went for a drive through the country, enjoying the quiet and the scenery. On that drive, I discovered a huge blackberry patch. Unfortunately, the berries were all still red.
As I was heading to town this past weekend, those blackberries popped into my head and I decided to go check them out. What did I find? Perfect, juicy blackberries filled the bushes.
After a quick trip to town it was back home to change and go picking. After a brief encounter with a road grader (I had to keep moving out of the way), I was neck deep (literally some times) in blackberries. I returned home with a bowl full, about 10 cups I discovered when I measured them out. And I knew exactly what to do with them.
There’s nothing better than blackberry preserves on toast in the morning, so I set to work making it. After washing and crushing the berries, I began the cooking and canning process. I also snacked on a few, too.
Once that was complete, I headed back out to pick a few more. I would have to wait until morning to try the preserves, so some blackberry cobbler was just what we needed for dessert that night. It was such a perfect time for picking that I couldn’t stop myself. I picked the three cups I needed, but everywhere I looked were more plump blackberries waiting to be picked. I came home with nearly 10 more cups.
Setting some aside for the cobbler, I decided fresh blackberries mid-winter would be really tasty so I decided to freeze some.
To freeze them, gently rinse them off, being sure to get any stems off that may have stuck to the berry, then pat them dry and spread them out on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Slide them into the freezer for a few hours and once they are frozen, transfer them into a freezer bag to store. They will keep at least six months in the freezer –that’s assuming you can stay out of them that long.
While I picked many berries this weekend (I actually went back three times, picking about 13 pounds of berries), there are at least twice as many that have not ripened yet, so there is still time to get your own. Take a couple of hours, enjoy a drive in the country and watch the sides of the roads for those berries.
It’s easiest to pick them using a bowl rather than a sack which will get caught in the thorns. I have a large plastic bowl that works well. And speaking of thorns, be sure to wear long pants, boots and a long-sleeve shirt. Those thorns will grab you as well. I’ve tried gloves, but the berries are too fragile and end up getting squished while picking, so I tough it out and use my bare hands. Then when I get home, I grab the tweezers and pluck the thorns out that I couldn’t avoid. I also have scratched up hands for a while, but it is worth it. It’s always fun to find something growing in the wild that can provide food for you – and very tasty food at that.
Until next time, happy garden-fresh eating!
(makes 9 half pints)
10 cups blackberries
5 cups sugar
1 (1 3/4 oz) package dry pectin
Mash the blackberries with a potato masher, then place in large pot. Slowly add pectin and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Once boiling, add sugar all at once and stir in, bringing back to a full boil. Boil one minute then remove from heat and pour into warm jars. Process the jars for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath. Remove and let set undisturbed for 12 hours.
1 stick butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
3/4 cup milk
2 cups fresh blackberries
Melt butter in cast iron Dutch oven (or any deep baking dish) at 200 degrees in oven. Take out when almost melted and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix sugar, flour, salt and baking powder together. Add milk and mix well. Pour batter into melted butter, do not stir. Drop spoonfuls of berries evenly across surface of batter. Do not stir. Sprinkle top with 1/4 cup of sugar. Bake for 50 minutes to one hour, until golden brown.
Julie Clements is a Butler County Master Gardener. Share your ideas for garden-fresh recipes or ways to preserve at firstname.lastname@example.org and some will be featured in upcoming columns.