It is blackberry season. This year, on our annual berry picking day, we saw lots of interesting pickers and eaters. We saw some ingenious ideas for picking the most elusive berries that always tempt those who would challenge the thorny vines. Others were content to pluck a few ripe berries as they walked by the berry patch.
We headed to a popular berry picking spot armed with a secret weapon – our reach extenders that are frequently used in our home for high shelves. They were perfect to overcome the lack of stature and most importantly, the thorns. They worked like a charm! The highest branches laden with the best berries were within easy reach. It didn’t take long to fill our small buckets with large juicy berries. Our prized bucket of berries came dangerously close to being gobbled down by an eager young Labrador puppy who could hardly resist the luscious blackberries. It certainly was an entertaining wind-up to our annual blackberry picking adventure.
In order to feature the fresh berries, you can use them in a variety of ways. After thoroughly washing the berries, our usual process is to enjoy them with a light sprinkle of sugar, lime zest and vanilla bean paste.
The remaining berries are generally made into the puree, which can be used in many ways. This is the method I use:
Blackberry Purée Method:
- In a medium saucepan, add one cup of sugar for every four cups of berries (adjust to taste), two tablespoons of lemon juice and a vanilla pod, if available.
- Simmer until the berries soften and become juicy – about 10 minutes.
- Lightly crush and strain the mixture to remove the seeds, pressing with a rubber spatula to extract the puree. Discard the seeds.
- The puree can be used in a number of ways, for example, Blackberry Merlot sauce recipe, which follows.
BLACKBERRY MERLOT SAUCE
CHEF TALK: This sauce is very nice with ribs, pork or chicken. It is a red-hued sauce, transforming into a rich burgundy coloured sauce after baking.
Yield: approximately 3 cups of sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 – 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 cup Merlot (or water)
- 1 1/2 cups blackberry puree (see puree method above)
- In a saucepan, combine the salt, sugar, flour, mustard and cloves.
- Add the vinegar, lemon juice, Merlot and blackberry puree, whisking to incorporate the ingredients together.
- Cook and stir over low to medium heat until slightly thickened.
- Set aside to cool. Use the sauce as you would any barbeque sauce (ribs, chops,etc.)
- If you are using the sauce on ribs, precook the 3 lbs. of pork ribs by either pre-boiling or broiling or grilling to brown. (serves 4 – 6 people)
- Return meat to the pan that you will finish baking the dish. Pour the sauce over the top of the meat. Cover the dish with foil. The dish can be prepared ahead to this point.
- Bake at 350°F for one hour, turning the meat occasionally to coat, uncovering the dish during the last half hour.
- If you are using pork tenderloin, sauté or grill lightly. Set aside. You may use the same skillet. Pour some of the sauce over the tenderloin and turn to coat. Finish in the oven until the pork is done. As an alternative, you can bake the tenderloin. Using a baking dish, add some of the sauce, turning to coat. Bake as above, turning occasionally until the desired doneness is reached.
- If blackberry puree is not available for the Blackberry Merlot Sauce, you can also use cranberry sauce, which is especially tasty with pork.
- If you want to save a few of the fresh berries for the freezer, place washed, dry berries on a parchment lined baking sheet in a single layer. Freeze the berries uncovered, until they are frozen solid. Then place the berries (now individually quick frozen – IQF) in zipper storage bags or containers. Voila! Ready for smoothies, for making fruit crisps or wherever your blackberry creativity may take you.
- Keep some blackberry puree in reserve for Blackberry Lime Curd (the puree can be frozen). Any fruit puree can be made into a curd, similar to lemon curd. This gorgeous blackberry curd is burgundy-pink in colour.
- As a light summertime dessert, Blackberry Lime Curd looks lovely piped into a meringue nest or tart shell with a garnish of mint. There is a step-by-step recipe for Meringue Nests here.
Happy blackberry picking, everyone! Enjoy the season.
Please CLICK the link above to access my UrbnSpice LEARNING TIPS, which are listed alphabetically on the Learning Tips blog post under the following subheadings:
- Vanilla Extract
If you make my recipe for Blackberry Merlot Sauce, please leave me a comment below with your feedback.
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