Monday, September 03, 2007

Blackberry Days

Summer's last hurrah, blackberries. We went blackberry picking last night, up on the hill at the ranch with my Busy Farm sis and some of the cousins. Lovely lady and I picked two huge bowls of blackberries. By now they've been turned into blackberry-peach crisp, several jars of jam, or bagged and frozen for smoothies.

There's something about picking blackberries. Maybe it's because we grew up eating the blackberries at the edges of the field on the farm where we grew up. Mom always knew we'd been eating blackberries when we came in with purple hands and mouths. Blackberries rank up there with shelling peas and the smell of fresh hay when it comes to plunking me firmly back into my childhood.

Maybe it's the effort it takes to pick them. We always come home scratched and dirty, a bit apprehensive about poison oak, vowing to wear long sleeves and pants next year.

Maybe it's because they're free. The fruits of my labors (heh heh), not counting the crisp which I would have made with the peaches anyway: Seven jars of jam plus four bags of freezer berries cost me a grand total of $4, if you total the costs of the sugar, pectin, and freezer bags.

Maybe it's because blackberries signal the end of summer. Not the calendar end of summer, but our yearly blackberry expedition signals that fall is approaching, that school will start soon, that summer fruits are nearing the end and we'll have to settle for frozen, canned, jammed until sweet strawberries return in June.

Perfectly Peachy Blackberry Crisp
Or peach crisp, if you have no desire to risk poison oak and get scratched to bits just for the perfect dessert. Or blackberry crisp if you haven't got any peaches handy. Really, you can't go wrong.

Heat the oven to 375. Spread 2 cups oats evenly on a large baking sheet and toast them in the oven for 7-10 minutes. They're ready when they smell fragrant and oaty. This dries the oats slightly and gives them a nice nutty flavor. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, stir together:
3/4 cup flour
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, fresh if you've got it
1/2 teaspoon salt

Then add:
10 Tablespoons chilled butter (unsalted if it's handy, otherwise use salted), cut into 1/2" pieces then cut into the flour mixture using a pastry blender (like this one). You can also use your food processor to mix the flour mixture and cut in the butter. The pastry cutter is easier to assemble and clean though, so it's worth the little bit of elbow grease it takes to use it.

Mix in:
The 2 cups toasted oats

Place the entire mixture into the refrigerator to chill while you assemble the filling.

To skin peaches easily, boil some water in a large pot. Once it's boiling, drop the peaches in for about 30 seconds (more if the peaches aren't very ripe), then remove with a slotted spoon and place into a bowl of ice water. The skins should be loose enough that you can pull them right off the peaches. I started with the peaches, peeled and sliced, then added enough blackberries so that I had 12 cups of fruit total.

In a large bowl gently mix:
12 cups fruit, blackberries and sliced peaches
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
Zest and juice from 1 lemon or lime (lime with blackberries alone is perfect, with peaches I stick with lemon)
Sprinkle of cinnamon and dash of salt

Pour the fruit mixture into a deep 9x13 dish. (If you're halving the recipe, use a square baking dish.) Sprinkle the chilled topping evenly over the fruit. Bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes, until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden-brown.

It tastes even better when you've got good company, so invite the neighbors over. Serve warm with a little vanilla ice cream. Peachy keen.


Julie R said...

Wow, that looks and sounds DELISH! My mom loves Blackberries for many of the reasons you mentioned. Yummy and full of memories!

Mom2Morgan.Dylan said...

The best part of my Mom's house? Picking blackberries along the path to the barn during my cool-down after running. Oh yes - I ate them right then and there. Yuuummmmmm.... Hope you enjoyed yours as much as I did! ~Dawn

Brit said...

MMMM, that looks so good. Thanks for sharing the recipe, I think we will try it this weekend!