There is currently a beautiful blackberry crop at Restoration Farm (our C.S.A.) and there’s nothing more fun than walking down to the berry patch and picking a pint or quart of berries with your kid in a bucolic colonial setting.
You know which berries are ready because they are dark, dark, dark (which I suppose explains why they are called blackberries; I am a genius) and also, when you are harvesting, the ripe ones don’t resist a very gentle tug, but slip right off the bush into your fingers sans stem and core. If they resist, it is not because they are being difficult, but because they simply do not want to deliver themselves to you at anything less than their peak.
This is an important lesson for a five-year-old who regards much of his mother’s wisdom with a skepticism usually only seen in sullen teenagers. Many an ultra-tart blackberry was spit out in disgust before he chose to believe what I was telling him about blackberry ripeness detection. But of course by then, he had come to the conclusion his very own empirical, imperial self.
“Didn’t you know, Mom,” he begins his declaration. “The blackberries aren’t ready unless they come off easy. Otherwise they are too tart. Too tart. Here try this one so you can see what I mean. Try it! Try it! Please! Pleeeeez!”
And so, I end up eating the indeed-too-tart blackberries that he doesn’t want to eat himself. And I keep hoping that whatever he chooses to do in life, he will retain a healthy skepticism, but sometimes, once in a while, on occasion, take the advice proffered by others who know. Maybe even his mother.
In the meantime, here are a couple of ideas for what to do with blackberries (and those infernal seeds…)
1 scant quart blackberries
1 scant Cup sugar
¼ Cup water, plus more for thinning
Bring all the ingredients to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Lower heat to a soft simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the blackberries are liquefied and the mixture begins to thicken. Push through a fine strainer over a clean glass jar or plastic pint container to remove seeds. Cover and refrigerate. The syrup will keep well for a week. Try it over pancakes or in one of the following recipes!
Brew 1 quart iced tea (decaf is fine) and allow to cool. Add 2 Tbs lemon juice and ½ Cup blackberry syrup, stir well and serve over ice. Can be refrigerated for three days.
(I recommend using a 1.5 oz shot glass and these proportions to make small aperitif cocktails for four)
4 parts vodka
3 parts blackberry syrup
¼-1/2 part lemon
Pour all ingredients into a martini shaker or large glass filled with ice. Shake (or stir, if using a glass) and pour into martini glasses. Garnish with a whole blackberry, and lemon slice, or a sprig of lavender. Or all of the above.