Friday, November 24, 2017
Cooking

Cooking with fresh blackberries in sweet and savory dishes

RECOMMENDED READING


The summers of childhood in the 1950s and '60s meant blackberry picking followed by tasty dishes filled with the juicy, black fruit. I hold treasured memories of those berry-picking days in western North Carolina and still love the taste of blackberries, now touted for nutritional qualities.

Blackberry is a popular flavor in food from ice cream to yogurt, and recipes range from salmon with blackberry glaze to cream cheese blackberry muffins. Blackberry cobbler is always sure to please.

Cultivated blackberries are now ripening in the Tampa Bay area. For a few weeks, I've kept watch on BlueYouth Berry Farm in Odessa. Carleen Gunter owns the place across the road from where she grew up long before blackberries were grown in neat, even rows, pruned and without the menacing thorns of wild ones.

Carleen's varieties, with American Indian names like Quachita and Natchez, were hybridized at the University of Arkansas. In 1964, professor James Moore began the blackberry cultivation program there that crossed thorny and thornless varieties. Without genetic modifications, these varieties produced the sturdy producers that grow at BlueYouth.

It doesn't take long to fill a bucket with the large blackberries at BlueYouth. While I'm picking, my thoughts drift back to a time when I often met trouble when sent out in the pasture with my tin pail to gather wild blackberries near Franklin, N.C.

Surely, one of my grandma's motives was to keep me busy while she and mom tended the garden or were busy preserving foods for winter. I often took liberties from berry-picking especially when I could find Old Jerse, our cow. I'd milk her for the sheer joy of doing it, then slurp down the rich, sweet milk from my blackberry pail while sitting on a rock in the sunshine.

My sister, the rule follower, would hightail it straight to the house to tattle. Grandma was gentle about things; Mom was more direct with a few swats on my hindside as a reminder NOT to milk Old Jerse midday even if she was gentle as a family dog and tolerant of my 5-year-old ways. Back I'd go to the pasture to my original chore with the usual words of warning to watch out for snakes that might be curled in the shade of the bushes.

In addition to the blackberry-picking hazard of the briar's sharp thorns that dug at tender young skin, there were also ticks and chiggers — also called "red bugs" — members of the mite family that bite in their larval stage and, for several days, cause intense itching from small, raised bumps.

On the plus side, once the berries were picked, delicious dishes followed, including favorites in the southern Appalachian region — cobblers, cakes and a sauce that was regionally called "larrup." Deep into the winter months, the snap of a Mason jar lid meant a breakfast of blackberry jelly scooped onto hot biscuits dripping with butter.

During the days of the Great Depression, blackberries, to many in the southern Appalachians, meant survival when jobs and food were in great shortage. Historians have noted that many mountain folks, in dire situations, survived on blackberries and wild greens during those tough years.

Nutritionally, a cup of blackberries has about 62 calories. They're a good source of fiber, as well as vitamin C, vitamin K and folic acid.

As if taste was not reason enough to enjoy blackberries.

     
Comments
Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Five ideas for easy Thanksgiving appetizers

Thanksgiving can put a heavy burden on the host. We’ve assembled five appetizers that are quick and easy to prep. Some, like our risotto balls and goat-cheese figs, cater to vegetarian diets, so you can be sure to please all your guests. Even i...
Published: 11/21/17
Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Five ideas for cooking with fresh cranberries

Cranberry sauce has long been a fixture on the holiday table. According to the Chicago Tribune, Ocean Spray, the popular producer of cranberry sauce, cans about 70 million tins of the stuff a year, 85 percent of which gets sold between Thanksgiving a...
Published: 11/21/17
Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Tips for first-time Thanksgiving hosts (or really, any of us)

Take small bites.This may be the most crucial advice for Thanksgiving hosts who donít have years of cooking and coordinating experience to provide the confidence that comes with leading the charge on the yearís biggest cooking day.Itís the first thin...
Published: 11/20/17
How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

How to make a pie from scratch: filling ideas, decorating tips, crust recipes and more

Perfect your crust. Try new filling recipes. Learn some decorating tricks. And prepare for the biggest pie day of the year: Thanksgiving. † From apple to thyme You’ve got the crust down. Now it’s time to choose a filling for your holid...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

Thanksgiving 101: Everything you need to prepare for the big cooking day

From appetizers to pies and everything in between, we’re here to help you put together a low-stress Thanksgiving spread. Here are a few ideas, and be sure to check out our Thanksgiving special report for more tips on preparing for the big day. ...
Published: 11/17/17
Updated: 11/20/17
Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

Thanksgiving sides beyond the classics: corn casserole, Brussels sprouts salad, pecan pie carrots

There are probably a handful of essentials, things you must have on the Thanksgiving table lest some family members begin to riot. But I find there are often a couple of slots open for new things, chances to get weird or creative or, gasp, healthy. ...
Published: 11/17/17
How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

How to make solid turkey gravy before Thanksgiving Day

As far as we’re concerned, anything you can make in advance of actual Thanksgiving Day is a good thing, and this make-ahead gravy fits the bill. Plus, Tucker Shaw of America’s Test Kitchen says it tastes just as good as if you made it wi...
Published: 11/17/17
How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

How to plan your Thanksgiving menu

Planning a really good menu is the stealth approach to being a really good cook. Here are some tips from the experts. New York Times Put some thought into the menu What leaves an impression is not only the dishes you can make, but also how they t...
Published: 11/17/17
Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

Everything you need to know to prepare your Thanksgiving turkey

The turkey is the unquestioned star of the Thanksgiving meal. It can be the most daunting part as well. But with a little planning and care, it doesn’t have to be. † Before you start • A decent roasting pan, one heavy enough that it wo...
Published: 11/16/17
Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

Taste test: prepared mashed sweet potatoes

If you want to spend more time with your family and friends this holiday season and less time in the kitchen, our judges suggest serving Hormelís mashed sweet potatoes. No need to wash, peel and heat potatoes. Just pop the container in the microwave ...
Published: 11/16/17