Blackberry season is nearly here! The last week of July and the first week of August are prime time for blackberries and the bushes around Cascadia are loaded with free abundant fruit. Blackberries may not be Cascadian natives but we love them all the same.
Start looking around your area for the best place to pick: find an out of the way place that hasn’t been maintained, is at least 2 blocks from the nearest roadway, has lush green blackberry bushes that show no signs of chemical spray like leaf curling or browning.
Get your equipment lined up: a 1-gallon milk jug makes a great bucket. Simply cut a wide hole in the top and add a wide comfy shoulder strap to the jug handle. This will allow you to pick berries with both hands. Find or make some shallow cardboard boxes–no more than 4 inches deep and stackable. Pick into your milk jug and then pour the berries into the shallow boxes. The shallow boxes minimize crushing and the dry boxes will help to remove extra dampness.
Check your patch daily and start picking as soon as berries begin to turn black. Revisit the same area every 2-3 days to maximize the harvest. By visiting the same bushes and not allowing overripe berries to accumulate, you are helping the bush avoid getting moldy–all the better to get more berries!
When you get your blackberries home, wash them in small batches and spread them out on a towel to dry for (very) short-term storage in the refrigerator. For longer term storage, spread the berries out in a single layer on a cookie sheet and freeze them. When they are solid, transfer them to an airtight container in the freezer. Use frozen berries to add a taste of summer to yogurt and smoothies.
Crush blackberries and add half as much sugar as you have blackberries–2 cups of berries needs 1 cup of sugar.
Turn the plate sideways–when the juice stays mostly in place, the jelly is done. Pour jelly into small jars and store in the refrigerator for up to 6 months(like that is going to happen!) or pour into sterile canning jars and process in a Boiling Water Bath for 5 minutes for storage in the pantry.
Blackberry Pancake Syrup
Crush blackberries and add as much brown sugar as you have blackberries–2 cups of berries needs 2 cup of brown sugar. Allow berries to sit for 4-24 hours until very juicy. Strain out the seeds and put the juice in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Stir in 1/4 cup butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and a dash of cinnamon. Bottle and store in the refrigerator for up to a month. Re-heat just before serving with pancakes, waffles or oatmeal.
Recipes from, The Productive Kitchen, by Vickie Phelps still in progress!