JOPLIN, Mo. —
It's that prickly time of year when blackberries become irresistible. If you're smart, you'll buy a box of beautiful, plump blackberries at the farmers market for $3. Worth every penny.
Because of my frugality, and the general belief that we should pick our own food as much as possible, I accepted a friend's invitation to pick blackberries on her property. I do this every year, and every year I wonder why in the world I'm doing it. I wear long sleeves, jeans with socks pulled up over them to avoid the inevitable chiggers, topped off with a ridiculously huge sun hat. It's quite the ensemble. Combined with the heat and humidity, I'm sure it feels just like picking wild berries in the jungle.
Oh, the thorns. At one point, my back, leg and hand were all pierced with thorns. I felt like a bug trapped in a spider's web, with buzzing beetles flying all around waiting to land on me without a free hand to swat them away. Blackberry picking should be a task reserved for prisoners, but only the ones who have committed unspeakable crimes.
Drama aside, I'm simply warning you to go into this endeavor with a clear heart. You may never see your loved ones again after you enter the entanglement of a blackberry bush that's heavy with berries. Not that I'm discouraging you; hand-picked berries are the sweetest. I'm sure I'll forget by next year and you'll find me in the same predicament.
When you make it home with your blackberry bounty, go through them and toss out the undesirables, random leaves and (gasp) stray beetles. Blackberries only last for a couple of days in the fridge before they get squishy, so have a plan in place. No worries: They freeze beautifully. Just rinse them, pat them dry and place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet to freeze. Once frozen, store them in a freezer bag. Then pat yourself on the back -- you've pulled off quite a feat. You won't have to think about them again until you're ready to try one of these recipes.
Clean blackberry crisp
4 to 5 cups fresh blackberries
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 cups rolled oats
11/2 cups raw sugar plus 11/2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 cups butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, combine raw sugar and molasses with a hand mixer. Add flour, oats, sugar mixture, cinnamon and nutmeg. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press half of mixture into the bottom of a 9-by-13-inch pan, then cover with the berries. Sprinkle remaining crumble mixture on top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until the blackberries are bubbly and the topping is golden brown.
Adapted from blog.energyearth.com
2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup fresh blackberries, divided
1/2 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon paprika, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
41/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons cornstarch
In a small bowl, mash 2 tablespoons berries. Add 1/4 cup broth, brown sugar, vinegar, oil, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon paprika and cumin. Place chicken in an 11-by-7-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray; pour broth mixture over the top. Sprinkle with thyme, salt, pepper and remaining paprika. Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until a meat thermometer reaches 170 degrees, basting occasionally with pan juices. Remove chicken and keep warm. Skim fat from pan drippings. In a small saucepan, combine cornstarch and remaining broth until smooth. Gradually stir in drippings. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened. Serve with chicken; sprinkle with remaining blackberries.
Whole-wheat blackberry bread with chocolate chips
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 3/4 cup white whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter. Combine flour, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Whisk and set aside. In another large bowl, combine butter, honey, and sugar and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs and lightly beat until just combined. Mix in berries and vanilla -- do not over mix. Gradually beat in the flour mixture. Dilute baking soda in 1/4 cup hot (not boiling) water, then beat into batter. Stir in the chocolate chips. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 325 degrees for about 50 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a wire rack to cool.
Have questions? Email them to email@example.com or mail her c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.