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Monday, August 29, 2011

Free Blackberries!

So, I go to the Farmer's Market on Saturday and buy $10 worth of farmed blackberries; big, flavorless, blackberries. On my way home I noticed the blackberry brambles, which are considered more of a weed here in Vancouver, are sporting deep black, small berries which are finally getting ripe and...sweet! I started picking and soon ended up with about 2 lbs of berries. Naturally, I put them in the bag with the cherries (which was perforated) in my cloth reusable bag leaving a trail of black juice as I walked the rest of the way home, into our building, in the elevator and through the kitchen. A minor inconvenience for what insanely delicious concoctions the dripping mass was soon to become.

This of course inspired me to go pick more, which I did. About 8 lbs worth! Sweet, flavorful and juicy blackberries...for FREE!! Foraging for blackberries is a bit tricky; you need the proper equipment. Here are a few tips I've learned by doing things the hard way:

1. Don't use a plastic bag. I found out the hard way as the thorns catch on the bag and poke holes turning it into a colander. Use a bucket with handle.

2. Gloves would be a good idea, too, and something protective covering your arms while you reach through branches to get the good ones lurking deep in the bush. My forearms look like I've had a scuffle with a cat.

3. Wet wipes are a must. Thankfully this is one thing I did have right. My hands were sticky and blue and covered in blackberry whiskers. Something I didn't want all over my steering wheel.

4. Most importantly, if you want really ripe ones, the berries really need to be nearly falling off. If you find some resistance when plucking they're not ripe yet even though they're black. You also need to use them right away as they're quick to get soft and spoil quickly. If you're not going to use them right away store them in the ice box unwashed. When ready to use give them a good rinse but be prepared to see a lot of juice go down the drain. It looks like a lot but don't fret; there's plenty left and won't affect your yield.


Of course I wasted no time I made some blackberry jam. I used lime juice instead of lemon (mainly because I ran out of lemons) and a bit of lime zest, a pinch of salt, vanilla and a couple fresh bay leaves. Delicious! I mashed about 3 lbs of berries and brought them to a boil along with all the other ingredients except the sugar. Once the boiling started I added the sugar, whisking as I poured. I let that cook for about 15 minutes then I added some pectin (used regular Certo) then poured in to sterilized jars and sealed. Man it turned out good!!


I also had to make a least one dessert - Blackberry goat cheese tart. A variation of my Blueberry Goat Cheese Tart. As good as this looks it wasn't quite perfect in my book. For one I used too many berries and too much filling so it took a long time to set yielding the crust too dark. But still, it was good and very flavorful. When I get the recipe down pat I will share, I promise! If you have blackberry brambles ubiquitous in your area get out there and pick them. It's fun and very rewarding! (Here's a helpful site to learn more about blackberries.)