Sunday, August 30, 2009

Blackberries

Where I grew up, in northern BC, blueberries were everywhere. Anywhere you hiked it was inevitable that you would run into blueberries and it was always a nice surprise. Stopping by a bush added such a brief moment of flavour and relaxation to an arduous hike ... to take that moment to pick and eat and relish in the fresh berry flavour before continuing on.


Here in Victoria blackberries are everywhere. In much the same way, these berries still provide that wonderful moment while hiking in the wilderness. Where blueberries are sweet and sugary, blackberries have a bite. The perfect blend of sweet and sour.



There is a nice little park only a few blocks away from my place and all year long I keep an eye on those blackberry bushes that grow in abundance there. Even though I know they won't form berries or ripen until sometime in August, I keep checking. Last week I walked down to that park with a big bowl in hand, a pair of sturdy jeans, long sleeves and some rubberized garden gloves. Blueberry bushes never required this type of get up, but in order to get the blackberry goodness you have to get passed the thorns first. So jeans are a must, even if it's 20 degrees out. Bowl in hand, I made it to the fertile picking grounds and began to pick. Slowly, efficiently pulling down ripe vines and plucking the full berries. It is quite a peaceful experience. Even with little children running around claiming that lots of people must know about their secret place.

Once I had these berries I returned home and filled the bowl with water to chase away any bugs. It's a risk you run for picking such fresh fruit. I didn't actually have time to do much more than that so I had to freeze them for later. The proper way to freeze them is to lay them out on a cookie sheet and wax or parchment paper in a thin layer and set them in your freezer. Then you can put them all in a zip lock bag and leave them in the freezer without them clumping together. I didn't have room for this, so they got dumped in a Tupperware container and frozen immediately.

Later on when I did have time to do something with them, I made a blackberry pie and damn was it good ... if I do say so myself. Unfortunately the picture doesn't do it justice as the lighting wasn't very good, but I'll work on that. In the meantime, here is the recipe for a delicious blackberry pie (which was made with my frozen blackberries).



Rice and Almond Pastry
(slightly modified and I mean very slightly from the Readers Digest Food Allergy Cookbook)

2 cups Rice Flour (Sweet white)
1 cup of Cornstarch
1 cup of ground Almonds
1 tsp. of Salt
1 cup of cold Butter or Margarine
2 large Eggs
2 Tbsp. Water


Mix flour, cornstarch, almonds and salt together in a large bowl. Next cut cold butter into the flour mixture with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine the eggs and water. Slowly add this liquid mixture to the flour until it clumps together. Add more water if it is still too dry, but be careful not to add too much. Bring the dough together in two small balls, wrap in plastic and chill for 30 minutes.

While the pastry is chilling, you can start working on the pie filling.

Blackberry Pie Filling

5 cups of Blackberries (frozen or fresh)
1 cup of White Sugar
1/4 cup of Brown Sugar
1/4 cup of White Rice Flour
1/4 cup of quick cooking Tapioca Pearls
1 tsp. Lemon Zest (optional)
1 tsp. Cinnamon
1/2 tsp. Nutmeg








  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh (hulled and rinsed) or frozen (see above)



























  • 1 cup white sugar



























  • 1/4 cup brown sugar



























  • 1/4 cup flour



























  • 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca pearls



























  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest



























  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, more or less to taste




























  • 5 cups blackberries, fresh (hulled and rinsed) or frozen (see above)



























  • 1 cup white sugar



























  • 1/4 cup brown sugar



























  • 1/4 cup flour



























  • 1/4 cup quick cooking tapioca pearls



























  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest



























  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg, more or less to taste




















  • In a large bowl stir all ingredients together until well combined.

    Now you are ready to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F and roll out your pie shells.

    Gluten free pastry dough is known for being very crumbly and not easy to work with. To help in this process, place a piece of wax paper down on the counter first. Sprinkle it with rice flour and place one dough ball on top. Next cover the dough ball in more rice flour and top it with another piece of wax paper. Roll the dough between the two sheets of wax paper. Once it is the size and shape you want it, remove the top layer of wax paper. Use the bottom layer of wax paper to help you transfer the shell into the pie pan and remove it once the transfer is complete. If any parts of the pie shell fall off or crumble away, just remember that even though the stuff is hard to work with it is very forgiving. You can play patch work with your pie shell and no one will be the wiser.

    Place the blackberry filling in the the pie shell and the top with the second rolled out dough ball. Sprinkle the top with sugar and place in the oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Sometimes fruit pies can boil over and make a big mess, so place a cookie sheet or aluminum foil under the plate to catch any spills and save you the huge clean up after wards.


    Once the pie is finished allow it to cool slightly so that the flour and tapioca can thicken up the juices. Then cut and serve with frozen yogurt, ice cream, whipping cream or whatever your little heart desires.

    Eat and enjoy!

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