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Posts Tagged ‘Blackberry and White Chocolate Muffins’

Living here in the Northwest I am always happy to find free sources of food. What I mean is I have learned about and have sampled many native plants which grow here. Some are the same ones I knew from growing up in the interior and others are strictly coastal natives. Other plants have been here so long and are so abundant that we assume they have always been here. Himalayan or more correctly Armenian Blackberries (Rubus armeniacus) fall into the brought here category. It has in North America since it’s introduction in 1885 by Luther Burbank who exchanged seeds with a source in India. This is why they have long been mistakenly called ‘Himalayan’ Blackberries. We now know the Blackberries that billow over hills around here are not Rubus discolor or R. procerus.

The Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) produces bountiful crops year after year.

The Armenian Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) produces bountiful crops year after year.

One can understand why he was interested in the Armenian Blackberry, it is a tough as nails plant which grows extremely fast and produces large crops of delicious berries regularly. I am sure Mr. Burbank never would have thought it would become a problem in many areas as it has.  Luther Burbank(1849-1926) was an American botanist who was involved in agricultural sciences. He was interested in improving and introducing better forms of food into a growing population. He brought several species of blackberries over and crossed them looking to produce a better plant with the attributes people would find useful. In all he introduced 16 selections of Blackberry some which are still used today.
A few minutes of picking Armenian Blackberries will produce enough for a delicious dessert.

A few minutes of picking Armenian Blackberries will produce enough for a delicious dessert.

At this time of the year as I travel about I will be sure to see people stopped a long roads getting a quick snack straight from Armenian Blackberry bushes that grow near by. Today as I walked downtown a mother and her children were munching on some berries that they picked from a bush conveniently close to the sidewalk. Here there is no real need to grow these plants in your garden, all you have to do is watch out for where people are stopped by the roadside and look.
My nephew Owen picking Armenian Blackberries.

My nephew Owen picking Armenian Blackberries.

As a child my mother enjoyed the Blackberry pies her mother made and as children we thought we would surprise her by picking enough berries for a pie.  She was surprised and appreciative of our efforts. What she forgot to tell us was the blackberries used for the pie of her youth were the real native ones (Rubus ursinus) which ripen much earlier.  Trailing Blackberries are abundant here on southern Vancouver Island but had are not so common anymore in South Surrey where my mother grew up.
Trailing Blackberry(Rubus ursinus) is sometimes called the 'Whipcord' Blackberry.

Trailing Blackberry(Rubus ursinus) is sometimes called the 'Whipcord' Blackberry.

Blackberries, whatever species are a great fruit packed with vitamins and minerals. They are very versatile and are used in many sweet delectable treats such as jams, jellies, liquors and many ways in desserts. Last week I made a Blackberry Shortcake and have used them in muffins recently. The flavor ofArmenian Blackberries has a touch of earthiness which works with many other flavors and savory things. Favorites of mine include adding a little orange zest, Blackberry with ginger and, sweet  Blackberry vinegar salad dressing added to shrimp salads or other delicate fish.
Freshly washed Blackberries waiting to made into Blackberry Shortcake.

Freshly washed Blackberries waiting to made into Blackberry Shortcake.

When Picking Armenian Blackberries always remember to pick the darkest, blackest berries as these will be the sweetest. When they are fully ripe Blackberries will practically pick themselves for you by falling into your hand. I always wash my berries as soon as I get them home and put let the water drain as much as possible before storing them in the fridge if I am not using them right away. They do not store well or last long so use them within a few days or freeze them if you want them later.
Armenian Blackberries like to scramble up trees, you can pick the hanging ones.

Armenian Blackberries like to scramble up trees, you can pick the hanging ones.

The best places to pick Armenian Blackberries are in areas where there is good moisture during the early summer so the berries are nice, big and juicy. I like to pick my berries as far from roads as possible so they are cleaner. When picking you should wear dark clothing and consider wearing long pants and shirts as the brambles are prickly and the fruit can stain lightly colored clothes. My sister and I always thing a hook on a long handle would be a good thing to bring as it always seems the best berries are too high up for us to reach.  We like to pick our berries in small containers so we do not squish the bottom ones. Another thing to bring is something to wipe your hands with to remove the sticky sweet berry juice.

East Coast or West Coast We all Love Blackberries.

East Coast or West Coast We all Love Blackberries.

More About Armenian Blackberries:

Luther Burbank: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Luther_Burbank

Trailing Blackberries that my mother loved: http://www.gardenwiseonline.ca/gw/plants/2005/04/01/wild-about-native-blackberries

Unscrambling this Blackberries correct botanical name: http://www.ou.edu/cas/botany-micro/ben/ben230.html

From Kim: It’s a Blackberry Brunch!

The blackberry fruit is particularly abundant in eastern North America and on the Pacific coast; in the British Isles and Western Europe. The bush is characterized by its usually prickly, erect, or trailing stems. The leaves usually have three or five oval coarsely toothed, stalked leaflets, many of which persist through the winter. The blackberry fruit is an aggregate fruit that is composed of many smaller fruits called drupes. A drupe is a type of fruit in which the outer fleshy part surrounds a seed. Another example of a drupe is the peach. There are two types of blackberries, erect and trailing. The primary difference is the growth habit of their canes. Erect blackberry fruit types have stiff, arching canes that are somewhat self-supporting. Trailing blackberries, also called dewberries in the East, have canes that are not self-supporting. Their leaves are what’s used to make blackberry tea. I was reading several sites about this and its correlation to high discounts of stomach cancers related to Asians and British because of the quantity of teas they consume, however studies are still being done since this is not conclusive. The leaves are said to be helpful in reducing blood sugar levels and is a good source of Vitamins C and E and selenium. And new research shows that blackberries (also known as black raspberries) reduce the risk of esophageal cancer. For more information, check out Whole Fruit Supplements Guide. Some of the other health benefits attributed to blackberry tea are:

  1. Blackberry Tea may be helpful in treating sore throat.
  2. Blackberry Tea is said to be effective when used to treat diarrhea.
  3. Blackberry Tea may be useful in fighting dehydration.
  4. Blackberry Tea may complement efforts to help prevent cancer and heart disease.
  5. Blackberry Tea may be used to compress varicose veins and combat hemorrhoids.

Berries are my favorite fruit, I love their sweet taste and when cooked, I love their aroma. I can’t put it any plainer than that. But within all the berry family, I’m most familiar with strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries so when we picked the blackberry as our herb plant this month, I had to do a little digging. I’m glad we did pick them because it gave me a chance to do a little research as well as experimenting. And I love to work with something I don’t have a ton of experience on to see how it turns out. So in coming up with a menu for this post, I thought of brunch. I hardly ever think of this meal. It’s always breakfast, lunch, dinner. But what about mixing breakfast with lunch? I think this menu makes a wonderful get-together on a Saturday late morning/early afternoon. It could also serve as a tea time too. I’m going in order with my menu as with the storybook form, since most of this menu takes time and it’s baking so patience is virtue and I always like doing the most time consuming or complex things first and finish off with the easy stuff. That’s just my way! It helps me get the big stuff out of the way!

Cheese Blintz Topped with Blackberry Sauce

For the Crepe:
1-1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 eggs
1-1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. melted butter

For Filling:
16 ounces cottage or ricotta cheese
8 ounces cream cheese
1/4 c. Parmesan cheese finely ground
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. melted butter
3 tsp. vanilla

For the Sauce:
3 c. fresh or frozen blackberries
3/4 to 1 c. sugar (depending on the tartness of the berries)
1 tbsp. water
1/2 tbsp. cornstarch

Preparation:
Put all of the crepe batter ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth, adjusting the flour and/or milk to get the consistency of heavy cream. Cover and set aside for at least an hour to allow the batter to rest. While the batter is resting, beat or mix the filling ingredients together in a food processor until smooth. Cook the berries in a saucepan over low heat, until bubbling. Mash, using a potato masher. Add sugar, a few tablespoons at a time and taste for tartness then mix the water and cornstarch in a small cup and add to the sauce. Stir over low heat until you’re satisfied with the thickness of the sauce. If too thin, add some more cornstarch and water. If too thick, thin with some water. All of the ingredients can be refrigerated overnight at this point. Grease an 8-inch skillet with light coating of butter. A non-stick or well-seasoned pan works best. Pour three to four tablespoons of batter into the skillet, turning the pan to coat it.

Note: it might take at least two or three crepes to get the right balance between the amount of batter and the heat of the pan, so be patient and don’t get frustrated! 🙂

Fry lightly on one side for about two minutes, then flip and fry for about 10 seconds on the other. (You don’t even need a spatula, just carefully grab the crepe with your fingers at one edge and turn it over.) Slide the coked crepe onto a stack, separating each crepe with a square of waxed paper. Repeat with remaining batter. You should get about a dozen. Put about 2 heaping tablespoons of filling in the middle of the browned side of the crepe. Fold the bottom third of the crepe up over the filling first, then fold over the sides, and finally fold down the top to form a small envelope. Place blintzes “seam side” down on wax paper. Refrigerate them for an hour or so to firm them up. They can also be frozen at this point, and then fried without defrosting. Melt two tablespoons of butter in large skillet over medium heat. Fry blintzes seam side down until golden brown on all sides. Arrange on a warm platter and pour blackberry sauce on top to make a lovely presentation.

Blackberry White Chocolate Muffins

Ingredients:
2 c. self-rising flour
1/4 c. caster sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 lemon zest of
90 grams unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/2 c. milk
1/2 c. white chocolate chips
150 grams frozen blackberries, (½ box)

Preparation:
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a muffin tin well with butter or spray oil. Sift flour into a large bowl and stir in the sugars to mix evenly. In another bowl mix together the egg, lemon zest, butter, buttermilk, milk and choc chips and add to the flour mixture with the blackberries. Spoon into muffin tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Makes 12 muffins.

Blackberry Raspberry Pie

adapted from recipezaar.com

Ingredients:
1 (10 inch) double pastry crust, unbaked (Pillsbury preferred)
2 c. blackberries
2 c. raspberries
1-1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. water
2 tbsp. flour
3 tbsp. butter

Preparation:
Roll half of the pie crust very thin and line a 8x8ish inch baking pan, then roll other half of pie crust very thin and cut into 2 inch strips. Bake half of the 2 inch strips at 350-375F on a cookie sheet. In a saucepan, cook blackberries and raspberries, 1 cup of sugar and water until it boils. Mix together flour and remaining sugar; add to berry mixture and stir constantly for 3 minutes, until thick. Spoon into pastry lined pan and push the cooked crust strips to the middle, dot with butter and cover with remaining strips. Bake at 425 degrees F for 25-30 minutes. Serve hot alongside ice cream! Serves 4 – 6. Note: 55 min baking time | 25 min prep

Blackberry French Toast with Homemade Blackberry Jam

Ingredients:
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 c. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla, optional
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
10 slices bread blackberry jam
fresh blackberries

Preparation:
In a large bowl, mix beaten eggs with the milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Dip a slice of bread into mixture then place on a heated griddle that has been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cook for 1-2 minutes on each side on medium / medium-high heat or until desired doneness. Top with a mixture of blackberry preserves along with fresh blackberries. It will melt a bit from the heat of the toast and yummy!!

Homemade Blackberry Jam

Ingredients:
1 lb. blackberries
1/2 lb. brown sugar

Preparation:
Gather the fruit in dry weather, allow half a pound of good brown sugar to every pound of fruit. Boil the whole together gently for an hour or until the blackberries are soft, stirring and mashing them well. Put in small jars and tie down and store. Note: This is also such a great gift for Christmas time because you can make pretty bow ties and place cards for the jars for friends and family and because it’s homemade, it makes the gift that much more special.

Blackberry Tart

Ingredients:
4 c. blackberries (or dewberries)
Sugar to taste or 2/3 cups
One ten inch tart crust, unbaked, frozen (smittenkitchen.com’s recipe for unshrinkable tart crust)

Preparation:
Prepare washed berries with sugar and set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill with berries. Put the pie crust on top of a baking sheet to catch any berries which can bubble over. Bake for about 35 minutes or until pastry shell is browned and berries are bubbling. Your oven temperature may differ from mine, if I bake anything over 350 degrees, it burns the bottom too quickly but not all the way through. It took me many times experimenting along with burned pies, not fully cooked pizza dough to finally find the perfect temperature! Ahhhh… the trials of a baker right? Last, but certainly not least is having something to wash all it down with so why not a blackberry tea?

Blackberry Tea

Preparation:
Allow 1 heaping tablespoon of dried blackberry tea leaves per cup of boiling water, cover, and steep 10 minutes. Strain and add honey or sugar to taste. You can combine equal amounts of dried mint and dried blackberry tea leaves as a combination. Check out Jen’s post for some wonderful historical facts as well as her great photo on blackberries! And see ya next month when we pick another herb to feature!

Until next month…from The Garden Palette!

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