Bowl Full of Awesome

It’s shaping up to be a less than amazing year for blackberries at Patchwork. The bush is having a lighter year, then the overly exuberant kids stripped off everything remotely ripe during Art Garden Week II. Great for them…not so great for me. In the week since Art Garden I’ve had plenty of competition from other blackberry pickers. Fair enough…it’s not my blackberry bush, it’s a community garden, but shouldn’t it count for something that I am Patchwork’s legendary blackberry harvester? No? Oh well then. I’ll adapt.

The blackberries in my garden have been doing well this year–at least until yesterday when a couple of catbirds discovered them and chewed up every berry. Next year I’ll have to get out the bird netting.

My blackberries are all starts from Patchwork’s berries. I had a second variety last year and had eagerly awaited the first ever berries. Then I realized that the other variety literally tasted like vomit: sour, acidic, and just a little sweet. Blackberries’ flavor changes quite a bit when you cook them, becoming more mellow and less “green”, so even the barfy berries were just fine cooked. But,  I didn’t want to mistake one for the Patchwork variety if I was eating them fresh off the vine, so I killed them off. The Patchwork variety has taken over well since then.

While the blackberries at Patchwork aren’t overly abundant this year, the plum tree is loaded so I picked some of them. They’re a beautiful yellow with a blush of red when they’re ripe. I cut up some of them, added some local peaches and some of the blueberries I picked a few weeks ago, brought a few sweet cherries out of the freezer, and threw in a precious handful of the blackberries I’ve gathered.

From that beautiful bowl of fruit I made a fruit platz. It’s kind of like an un-flipped upside-down cake. There’s a nice cake layer on the bottom, a layer of fruit, and then a crumbly topping. It’s the first time I’ve tried this recipe, but it was a good use of my mixed fruits. It’s not the blackberry cobbler I’m famous for, but it tasted amazing. Not too sweet, very fruity, with a hint of spices. I think I can adapt quite well to fewer blackberries.

That, and I really need to keep my freezer stocked with vanilla ice cream all summer so that I’m prepared whenever the mood hits me to make some fruit dessert. Also good with the platz: cardamom flavored ice cream I got at Evansville’s Fresh Market.

I’ve saved up the limited blackberries I have been able to get my hands on so I could make at least one batch of blackberry jam. Last year I discovered that the strainer I’d gotten to make applesauce also had a berry attachment so I could pulp and seed blackberries. It was a significant innovation for me!

Unfortunately, last year I thought my jam tasted too sweet and the sugar obscured the solid berry flavor of the blackberries. This year I tried a different type of pectin that’s supposed to work with much less sugar. It’s called Pamona’s Universal Pectin. I got it at the River City Food Co-op so it’s officially alternative pectin.

I just finished the batch and now I’m listening to the jar lids ping as they seal. The bites I’ve sampled taste perfect. Very berry yet still sweet. This year I also tried adding some sage to the berries make an even more complex flavor. I was afraid to overdo it, so I don’t think I added enough. Sage and blackberry go together so well.

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