Bitterness in the patch turns to sweetness in the kitchen when blackberries are concerned

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 27, 2003

A few decades ago, little fresh-faced boys would be knocking at the doors seeking buyers for gallon buckets of blackberries.

And there would be plenty of takers. In fact, some ladies would run a kid down to buy a gallon of those plump, sweet berries that grew wild in patches across the rural countryside.

Picking blackberries was not easy task. There were bees, snakes, briars and thorns to contend with, not to mention the hot sun and ants that made their beds nearby.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

But, any bitterness of the blackberry patch turned to sweetness in mom's kitchen - blackberry pies, cakes, cobblers jams, jellies, syrups - and for "Christmas cakes?" — blackberry wine.

Annette Bryan said, as a child, the best place to eat a blackberry cobbler was in the cotton field.

"We weren't actually working in the cotton field; we were playing at working in the cotton field," she said, laughing. "My mother would come out where we were with a blackberry cobbler and we would sit down under a tree that shaded the edge of the cotton field and eat every bite of it. There's never been a better blackberry cobbler than the one my mother brought to us in the cotton field."

Gone are the days of little boys peddling tin buckets of blackberries and mothers who carried the berry cobblers to the field for tired, hungry children.

Wild blackberries are harder to find. Roadside spraying has eliminated many of the bushes that grew along fence rows and people are too busy to go blackberry picking anyway. And, folks don't like the way the seeds get caught in their teeth and the way the berries play havoc with their digestive system.

But the little berry just might be making a comeback thanks to a wealth of cultivated varieties on the market.

Gary Weil has a blackberry patch at his home in Banks and has found that blackberries are a good, juicy fruit with many uses.

"I started growing blackberries because I didn't want blueberries - a lot of people grow them. I don't care for raspberries and strawberries are a pain," he said. "Blackberries are not a vine, but they are like a vine. They are easy to grow and there are tons of varieties and lots of uses for them - and they're good for you."

The blackberry is an ancient fruit, prescribed by the Ancient Greeks for gout, mentioned in the Bible and written about in British folklore.

Weil said blackberries are considered to be an astringent because of their high tannin content.

Blackberries can serve the body as a natural laxative.

"But their leaves can be dried and made into a tea that stops diarrhea," Weil said. "When dried, the root is said to be successful in treating urinary tract infections."

German health authorities recommend blackberries for mild infections, including sore throats and mouth irritations.

Weil said antioxidants in blackberries include vitamins C and E and ellagic acid, all of which may provide protection against cancer and chronic disease.

In addition to being a healthy fruit, blackberries are also a tasty, versatile fruit.

Blackberries can be eaten fresh, frozen or canned.

"They make great pies and even wine and juice," Weil said. "I have a wine press that I use to make blackberry juice and it's really good. I add some sugar to the juice to balance the tartness of the berries so that it stays on the sweet side. Sometimes I dilute it with grape juice or apple juice. Either way, it's a good fruit drink."

Weil said he would recommend blackberries to anyone who wants to grow fruit in their backyard.

"They don't take a lot of care because they aren't real picky and are well suited to our climate," he said. "And they don't need a lot space. Four or five plants spaced about three feet apart will make plenty of berries for a family. Plant them this year and you'll have berries next year."

For those who shy away from blackberries because of the seeds, Weil said the cultivated varieties have fewer seeds, so there's no reason not to enjoy blackberry pies and more from a backyard blackberry bush

Blackberries in the kitchen make fun and enjoyable dishes

Fresh Blackberry Pie

1 1/4 cups sugar

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 cups fresh blackberries

Pastry for double crust pie

Combine sugar, flour and salt. Add sugar mixture to the blackberries; toss to coat fruit. Fill a pastry-lined 9-inch plate with berry mixture. Adjust top crust. Seal and flute edge. Cover edge of pie with foil. Bake in a 375-degree oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil; bake for 25 to 30 minutes more or till golden. Cool on a wire rack.

Old Fashioned Blackberry Pie

1 quart fresh blackberries

3/4 cups granulated sugar

3 tablespoon quick tapioca

2 tablespoon juice from fresh lemon

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, stir together blackberries, 3/4 cup granulated sugar, tapioca and lemon juice. Let stand for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Spoon mixture into unbaked pastry shell.

For crumbs topping, in a small bowl stir together flour, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and brown sugar. With a pastry blender, cut in butter until crumbly. Sprinkle topping over blackberry mixture. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until bubbly near center. Cool completely.

Easy Blackberry Cobbler

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1 cup all purpose flour

2 cups sugar, divided

1 tablespoon baking powder

Pinch salt

1 cup milk

4 1/2 cups blackberries, lightly sugared

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Melt butter on a 13×9-inch baking dish. Combine flour, 1 cup sugar, baking powder and salt; add milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Pour batter over butter. Do not stir. Bring remaining 1 cup sugar, berries and lemon juice to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly; pour over batter. Do not stir. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm with whipped topping or ice cream.

Blackberry Pecan Cream Cheese Bars


1 (16.9-ounce) package Pillsbury Pecan Swirl Quick Break and Coffee Cake Mix

6 tablespoon butter, melted

3 eggs

3/4 cup blackberry jam

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1 (3 -ounce) packed cream cheese, softened

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 cup powdered sugar

3 to 5 teaspoons water

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, combine quick bread mix, butter and 1 of the eggs; mix well. Spread dough in bottom of ungreased 13×9-inch pan to form crust. Spread preserves over dough. Bear cream cheese in large bowl light and fluffy. Add remaining 2 eggs, 2 1/2 cups powdered sugar and vanilla; beat until smooth. Spoon and spread mixture over preserves. In small bowl, combine swirl mix from packet and pecans from foil packet; mix well. Sprinkle over cream cheese mixture. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes or until golden brown. Cool 1 hour. In a small bowl, combine 1 cup powdered sugar and enough water for desired drizzling consistency; blend until smooth. Drizzle glaze over bars. Refrigerate 1 hour. If desired, garnish with fresh blackberries and mint sprigs. Store in refrigerator.

Blackberry Jam

Wash and pick berries and discard white chores. Run through sieve. Weigh berries and boil rapidly for 30 minutes without sugar, stirring frequently and skimming. Add 3/4 pound sugar for each pound berries and boil 10 minutes. Pull to back of stove; take out 1/2 cup of jam, set upon ice to test for consistency. If too, thin, boil a little longer. Seal hot.

Blackberry Jam Cake with Walnuts and Caramel Icing


3 cups all purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 cups (packed) golden brown sugar

6 large eggs

1 cup seedless blackberry jam

3/4 cup buttermilk

1 cup walnut pieces (about 4 ounces) toasted, chopped


1 1/2 cups (packed) dark brown sugar

1 cup evaporated milk

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoon mild-flavored (light) molasses

1/4 teaspoon salt

6 1/3 cups powdered sugar

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For cake: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour 2 9-inch cake pans with 2-inch high sides. Sift first 6 ingredients into medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until fluffy. Gradually add sugar, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in jam. Beat in dry ingredients in 4 additions alternately with buttermilk in 3 additions. Fold in walnuts. Divide batter between prepared pans. Bake cakes until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool cakes in pans 10 minutes. Run knife around pan sides to loosen cakes. Turn cakes out onto racks and cool completely.

For Icing, Combine brown sugar, evaporated milk, butter, molasses and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Whist over medium-low heat until blended and smooth. Transfer mixture to large blow. Cook to lukewarm, whisking occasionally, about 15 minutes. Working in batches, sift powdered sugar into mixture, beating until smooth after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract. Cover and refrigerate icing until firm enough to spread, about 30 minutes. Place 1 cake layer, flat side up, on service platter. Spread 1 1/2 cups icing over top. Top with second layer, flat side down. Spread remaining icing over top and sides of cake. Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover cake and refrigerate. Let cake stand at room temperature 2 hours before serving. Extra delicious.

Blackberry Jelly

Wash, pick and put berries into a pot; cover with water and cook until soft; mash well and strain trough colander. Strain juice through cheesecloth bag. To each gallon berry juice, add juice of 12 lemons. Measure and, to every 3 1/2 cups juice, add 2 cups sugar. Cook in small quantities.

Blackberry Wine No, 1

Mash berries and to each quart, add 2 quarts water. Let stand 36 hours. Strain and add 3 pounds sugar to each gallon of juice. Let ferment from 7 to 10 days, skimming each day. It should be kept well covered. Strain through flannel bag, bottle and put in corks lightly. In the fall, tighten corks and seal and do not use for a year.

Blackberry Wine No. 2

Mash berries and measure. Pour over them 1 quart boiling water for each gallon of berries and let stand 24 hours. Strain, and to each gallon of juice, add 3 cups sugar. Pour into jars, cover with a strong cloth and let stand until fermentation ceases. Strain and bottle.