“On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels . . .”- Charles Dickens

*Do not put this peg (peg being me) in a Dickens hole. I just like this quote. Otherwise I stand by my annoyance with Dickens.

If I had a nickel for every time I thought to myself, I’m missing berry season (in the Pacific Northwest), while I was gone, I’d have enough to buy, well, nothing. Not even a stamp. My point is, I missed it, and I have been sad about it.  Sharing bummers is the only way to shake them sometimes. See those juicy, wonderful, almost-winking-at-you berries above? Those are tayberries. I got them right before I left for two months. I didn’t want to leave them the next day, but my plane ticket was bought. I am pretty sure I opened the fridge to say goodbye to them on my way out.

I’ll just go right ahead and get the berry bragging out of the way. Here’s what I have to look forward to every year: blackberries, strawberries, marionberries, boysenberries, loganberries, raspberries, caneberries, blackcaps (black raspberries), golden raspberries, blueberries (multiple varieties), huckleberries, you still with me? gooseberries, currants, and my new favorite, tayberries. As if that wasn’t enough, here is a great site for those of you who live in Seattle and its surrounding areas:http://www.pickyourown.org/index.htm, so you can jump in your old wood-sided Jeep, put on your cute berry-picking outfit (go ahead and wear that white shirt, it won’t get a drop of juice on it), grab an adorable vintage basket with your favorite linen towel (it’s okay, it won’t stain) to line it, maybe your it-is-quite-sunny classical sun hat (for the paradisiac weather of the day), and enjoy the bottle of red wine that you snuck in the car to surprise that someone special with later, after berry picking in an isolated, but not too isolated, field of fresh grass on which to lay your soft, just-big-enough plaid wool blanket. Flowers, no bugs, a little shade over what seems to be just your blanket from a weeping willow nestled behind you, as your husband pulls out of the trunk your favorite lunch in an old wicker picnic basket, complete with real silverware, wine glasses (what a coincidence!), and linen napkins. Brick sandwiches, homemade pickles, and potato salad that all kept perfectly well (even in this heat), and your best shortcake to go with the berries you just picked moments before. And scene. A girl can dream. Can’t she?

If you don’t live in a major city, or near a farm, you’ll probably be getting blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Maybe blackberries if you are lucky. They will most likely be shipped from far away, and cost a lot for the poor quality of berry you are getting. I feel for you. Really. I am not trying to rub this in your face. I am trying to get you to move to a major city, or a farm. Mostly joking, rest of the country. Except you Texas. And Tennessee. You scare me. Really most of the South. And North Dakota. I digress.

Tayberry! It is a Scottish raspberry crossed with an Aurora blackberry. Even though it looks like a raspberry it is considered a blackberry. The batch I got had strawberry leanings. And now for the best part. No seeds. Obviously there are seeds, but they are like strawberry seeds, not pumpkin, which blackberry seeds can sometimes feel like to me.

Seeds may not bother some of you (weirdos), but I cannot eat fresh berries or berry desserts with overbearing seeds. I am talking to you blackberry. It’s seriously all I can focus on. Forget me judging your crust or fruit viscosity. I just want to spit seeds onto your carpet in hopes that a china cap will be involved in your next fruitcapade.

I have what I hoped to keep as secret as possible, wild blackcap bushes, near my house. I have seen a few people picking, but there are so many berries, I realized I couldn’t possibly use all of them, and I guess it is alright if other people pick them too. You know, like the people who have probably been picking them for years before me. But, I am losing the fight. Sunday night was bad movie night:

over at Bemily’s house (yes I did that combining the couple’s names thing, I do not know anyone named Bemily), and, lo and behold, two of their friends bring a blackberry pie made with MY BLACKCAPS! As soon as they said wild, I knew they were ours. Jim looked at me, I looked at Jim, and then I asked where to clarify. To be fair, the pie-bringer used to work near the berries. So that gave him a pass. I’ll explain: even though we are a few miles from downtown, we are in a neighborhood to which you have to mean to go. We are probably the only ones in the neighborhood without a car. You don’t just happen to be strolling by these berries. That being said, the seed peeve was abound, and I can’t wait to go and see if I can rustle up some late-season berries to be part of an end-of-the-summer feast. Here is what I want to do with them:

Blackberry, Honey and Yogurt Pops

yield: Makes 10 pops

active time: 30 minutes

total time: 9 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup water
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries (3 1/2 to 3 3/4 cups)
  • 1 cup plain nonfat yogurt (preferably organic)
  • 5 teaspoons honey
  • 4 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Special equipment:

  • 1 ice pop mold (preferably with cover) for 10 pops (each about 1/3- to 1/2-cup capacity)
  • 10 ice pop sticks or lollipop sticks

Bring 2/3 cup water and sugar to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Transfer simple syrup to small bowl and chill until cold, about 1 hour.

Place blackberries in processor; puree until smooth. Pour blackberry puree into strainer set over medium bowl. Using rubber spatula, press on solids to extract as much puree as possible. Discard seeds in strainer. Measure 2 cups blackberry puree and place in another medium bowl for pops (reserve any remaining puree for another use). Add chilled simple syrup, yogurt, honey, and lemon juice to puree; whisk to blend.

Divide mixture among 10 molds (each about 1/3- to 1/2-cup capacity). Top with mold cover, if available, and insert stick into each. (If cover is not available, cover top of mold with plastic wrap, pulling taut; freeze until partially frozen, then insert stick into center of plastic wrap and into pop mixture in each.) Freeze pops until firm, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Dip bottom of mold into hot water 10 to 15 seconds to loosen pops. Remove pops from molds and serve.

from Bon Appetit

My wild blackcaps from last year.

Here is the best don’t-think-I’ll-ever-use-another-recipe-again recipe for my shortcake cake. It is one I was reluctant to share, so, you’re welcome.

Strawberry Shortcakes

Cake:

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1/2 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Sauce:

  • 2 pounds strawberries, hulled, divided
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups chilled whipping cream
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar plus additional for sprinkling
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°. Spray 9-inch diameter cake pan with 2-inch-high sides with nonstick spray. Sprinkle bottom and sides of pan with sugar; tap out any excess sugar. Whisk flour and baking powder in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat 1 cup sugar, cream cheese, and butter in large bowl to blend. Beat milk, eggs, and vanilla in another medium bowl to blend. Beat milk mixture into cream cheese mixture. Add dry ingredients; beat until smooth. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Sprinkle remaining 1 tablespoon sugar over top of batter.

Bake cake until golden brown on top and tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool in pan on rack. do ahead Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and let stand at room temperature.

For sauce:
Place half of strawberries (about 3 cups) in processor. Using on/off turns, process until coarsely chopped. Transfer to medium saucepan; reserve processor. Add 1/4 cup water, 2 tablespoons sugar, and lemon juice to chopped berries. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until strawberries are very tender, about 4 minutes. Return strawberry mixture to processor and puree until smooth. Strain sauce through fine mesh strainer into medium bowl. Cover and chill until cold, about 2 hours. do ahead Can be made 8 hours ahead. Keep chilled.

Quarter remaining strawberries. Toss with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar in another medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until sugar dissolves and juices form, tossing occasionally, about 30 minutes. Add strawberry sauce. Cover and chill. Whip chilled whipping cream, 1 1/2 tablespoons powdered sugar, and vanilla in large bowl until peaks form. Cut cake into 8 wedges. Split each wedge horizontally in half. Place bottom of each wedge on plate. Spoon strawberry mixture over, then top with dollop of whipped cream. Place top of cake over cream. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve.

*Use this recipe with whichever berry you’d like.

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