More summer bounty

July 10, 2016

We are talking significant blackberries, here.

We are talking significant blackberries, here.

This, my friends, is a blackberry. A blackberry that appears to have been on steroids prior to its harvest. A blackberry whose size is exceeded only by its taste and juiciness.

Lord, I love ’em. And this has been a banner year for ’em.

You may remember back a week ago, I’d been to not just one, but two, farmers’ markets, because I was intent on scoring some blackberries, and the local market didn’t have any. So I went to the next town over and bought berries.

I brought home two quarts of these beauties, which reposed in the fridge for close to a week as I worked my way through some of the astonishingly good collection of fruit I’d accumulated. (Have I mentioned how much I love summer?)

And I decided I would make a blackberry pie.

Not the prettiest pie I ever made, but it's a good one.

Not the prettiest pie I ever made, but it’s a good one.

Now, blackberry pies are, in most instances, cobblers, which I love, but of late, I’ve been the only one that eats them, which means I wind up throwing a big portion of them away. And I wasn’t fixin’ to waste these berries. So I decided I’d use a few to make some other kind of pie, and I’d fix the others in some fashion where they’d last a bit in the fridge, to eat with yogurt and granola for breakfast.

You see, as blackberries are somewhat self-contained and don’t give up their moisture easily unless they are cooked or mashed, you can’t just sprinkle sugar over them like you do strawberries and peaches, as a preservative. But I wanted them semi-whole for use in yogurt. And I said, “Self? Why couldn’t you cook some of those berries with some sugar, mash them up, and make blackberry juice, and use that to macerate the rest of the berries?” And self agreed that ought to work, so that’s what we did.

And while we were doing that, it occurred to me we could take PART of that blackberry juice, put some gelatin in it, and use it to top a cream pie with fresh fruit on it.

So first I put an 8-oz block of cream cheese out to soften, and went to the store to pick up a couple of cans of condensed milk, because I had let myself be out of condensed milk in the pantry, and one ought never do that. I had decided I would make the ubiquitous cherry cheese pie, centerpiece of the dessert table of many and many a church potluck, but it would be a blackberry cheese pie instead.

And that is what I did. Threw the cream cheese in the mixer, and beat it until it was fluffy. Added the condensed milk, a third of a cup of lemon juice, and a bare teaspoon of vanilla, and beat that all until all the lumps were gone. Poured it in a graham cracker crumb crust, and stuck it in the fridge.

Next day, I got out my berries, put about a third of one quart in a saucepan with 3/4 cup of sugar and about a cup and a half of water, and set that to cooking. Once it cooked a bit, I mashed the berries up with a potato masher (though I might do the immersion blender next time). Cooked it over medium heat for 20 minutes or so, then strained the juice. Put about 3/4 cup of it aside, poured the rest over the remaining berries and stashed them in the fridge. And once THEY had time to get plenty cool, I got them and the pie out, put a layer of berries on top of the pie, and poured the juice, into which I had stirred an envelope of unflavored gelatin, over them, and ran it BACK in the fridge.

Next time, I’d stir the gelatin into the juice while it was still hot; I didn’t get much gel action, it really didn’t thicken the syrup much, which was what I was after. One could also add cornstarch, which should help the thickening. I will have to play with this.

Folks, this makes a Sweet Baby Jesus version of this classic pie. I might put it in a bigger pie shell and pile the fruit a little higher next time, particularly if the berries are as big as these. Or I could just put a few more berries from the ones I have in the fridge around on the plate. The tartness factor was about right, although I used less than a half-cup of the juice.

Definitely a keeper.

And if you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want to come over for breakfast before they’re gone, we’ll try those berries with yogurt and granola.

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