July 26th, 2013

Longing For Blackberries, Fresh Off The Vine

threelayercake via Flickr

Hot weather offers many treats for foodies: deeply flavorful tomatoes, hearty callaloo,  juicy peaches and plums. And, of course, berries.

I haven’t met a summer berry I didn’t like, but for me, blackberries are king. As a kid, I spent months each year looking forward to these beauties.

Unfortunately, since moving to the East Coast, I just don’t salivate over them like I used to. No matter how fresh the market proclaims them to be, blackberries here just aren’t as delicious as they were back home. In the Pacific Northwest, blackberry brambles grow on virtually every unattended stretch of green space — parks, alleys, hillsides, back yards, you name it. And they’re often yours for the picking (though you naturally want to avoid patches that may have been sprayed with pesticides or grow in proximity to car exhaust).

This blackberry abundance made summer walks a gluttonous pleasure. I spent much of my childhood wandering wooded trails practically overgrown with brambles, plucking the juicy berries off the vines. In college, I had a blackberry bush (well, it was more a mess than a bush, to be honest) in my backyard. You could pick every single ripe berry one evening, only to come back the next to an entirely new crop.

Credit nordique via Flickr

This kind of magic is your brief reward for surviving 10 months of Seattle gloom.

Now, to be fair, no market could ever match the delight of picking a plump, bursting blackberry, still warm from the sunshine, fresh off the vine (and nasty vines they are, too — yet the prize is well worth the scratches). And it’s not that you can’t find tasty blackberries here in the nation’s capital. That said, if you happen to know where a Seattle transplant can find a blackberry bush growing wild and free in D.C., please fill me in!

In the meantime, I leave you with the simplest of recipes for blackberry cobbler. It’s just the thing to make when you’ve come in from the backyard, it’s getting late, and you must have a hot mix of berries and sweet dough — but just don’t have time for a pie. And if you ever get the opportunity, try this again with West Coast blackberries you’ve picked yourself; I guarantee it will taste even better!

Easiest Blackberry Cobbler

Adapted from Southern Living 

This is a somewhat cakey kind of cobbler, rather than the (also delicious) soupy-fruit type topped with sweet biscuits. I used a mix of unbleached and whole wheat pastry, but all-purpose or a combo with regular whole wheat flour will do. You could also use just whole wheat, but the cobbler will be more dense.

1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder
1 scant cup sugar (or to taste)
1 cup milk
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 to 2 cups blackberries

Whisk up the flour, sugar and milk until it’s all blended, but don’t overmix! (Think of it like muffin batter.) Mix in the butter, again taking care not to overmix.

Pour into a lightly buttered/greased 8×8 baking pan (or into two greased gratin dishes, like I did), then drop the berries all over the top. Some will sink in, others won’t.

Bake at 350 for one hour (or about 35-40 minutes if you’ve poured the batter into two smaller pans). It should be golden browned and set in the middle. Top it off with ice cream or whipped cream, if you like.

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Posted in Dear Diary