If you are in a hurry and just want to look at a lot of blackberry recipes and get on with cooking, scroll down a bit, or visit Homestead Farm's blackberry recipes. In the summer of 2006, I celebrated these mysterious berries again in an article for Nougat Magazine that turned out to be a kind of love story.
Wild blackberries are neither pleasant nor delicious eaten fresh. Their flavors explode after they are cooked with quite a bit of sugar. Layers of spiciness, sweetness, and tartness rest on top of a dark under-layer of pleasant bitterness or tannin. Sugar and heat bring out the huge, satisfying flavor of wild blackberries.
How much sugar? Amounts in recipes vary widely, perhaps in part depending on whether the developers used wild or cultivated berries. A typical proportion is 6 cups wild berries to 1 or 1.25 cups sugar. That's nearly a one-to-one ratio by weight. Berries vary greatly in sweetness, though, so you may adjust even after cooking. If the dessert is too tart, spoon on a little sugar, or make whipped cream or sour cream a bit sweeter than usual. If the result is too sweet, serve with unsweetened whipped cream or sour cream.
Lemon zest or lemon juice often show up in blackberry recipes. This seems odd, given how naturally tart the berries are. But somehow lemon works its magic with blackberries and seems to make all the flavors brighter and sharper, not just more sour.
Blackberry recipes may call for tiny amounts of spice. It is fun to experiment with these: nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and cardamom. Keep the amount small to add a layer of taste without calling attention to a particular spice as a standout flavor. Usually it is best to use about 1/8 teaspoon of only one spice, or two at most.
My favorite childhood blackberry dish was blackberry "dumplings" made by cooking a quart of sweetened blackberries in a saucepan until they boiled, turning down the heat to a simmer, and dropping in bits of either pie crust of biscuit dough. With the lid back on the pan, the dumplings are ready in about six minutes. They taste wonderful served with sweetened sour cream, homemade whipped cream, or vanilla ice cream. These dumplings are soft all the way through, as children like things.
Blackberry Pie These days, I like blackberry pies the best. Check out Lattice Top Blackberry Pie from Gourmet, July, 2000. It is a perfect, classic recipe. Be sure to read the tips from those who tried the recipe, or varied it a little. Combining the sweet-tart-spicy-dark taste of the complex berries with the elegance of crust - oh my. A good crust adds a touch of sweetness and the yummy texture of crunchy edges. The butter or shortening in the crust contributes a great "short" mouth feel around the juicy berries.
Blackberry Crisp I make more crisps than pies, because I can toss a crisp together in minutes and enjoy it nearly as much as a pie.
- In a large bowl, gently place six cups fresh wild blackberries and add 1 1/4 cup white sugar. Use hands or large spoons to mix together, gently. Let the berries and sugar stand while you make the topping.
- I make crisp topping without a recipe, but in roughly these proportions: 2/3 cup unbleached flour, 2 Tablespoons sugar, 1/3 cup cold unsalted butter, a sprinkle of good salt. Mix with the fingers until crumbly, or load into a food processor and pulse about seven times, until the largest crumbs are the size of small peas.
- Butter or spray a standard pie plate or any non-aluminum baking dish that easily contains the six cups of juicy berries. Put the berries in the dish and sprinkle with the topping. Bake at 375 for 50 - 60 minutes, until the top shows many spots of thick bubbly juice. Serve with lightly sweetened sour cream, homemade whipped cream, or a combination of both. Also quite edible with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, particularly if homemade.
Easy Soft Blackberry Cobbler This is not my favorite style of cobbler, but so many people know and love it that it must be good.
- Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. Put a stick of unsalted butter in a square 8 inch or 9 inch glass baking pan, and put in the oven to melt as the oven heats.
- In a medium bowl, mix 1 cup unbleached flour, 1 cup white sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir in one cup milk just until barely mixed. Take the baking dish out of the oven, and put the batter into it. Top with 6 cups of fresh wild blackberries. Bake 50-60 minutes. The batter will rise up through the fruit.
- Hundreds of variations exist for this cobbler, including the addition of a couple of tablespoons of white, stone-ground cornmeal, one or two eggs, buttermilk instead of regular milk, lemon zest, spices, and more. Have fun experimenting.
If you keep the basic ratio of fruit to sugar in a tasty range, all your experiments will be delicious to the people around you, even if the recipe does not turn out quite as you hoped. (Trust me on this - your family and friends will treasure all your homemade foods. Just use fresh, delicious, whole ingredients.)