By Lynda Rego
When I was reworking my garden a couple of years ago, I removed an overgrown buddleia and thought about what to plant in its stead. If you’re going to grow something, it might as well be something you can eat, I thought. So, next to two blueberry bushes, I planted two thornless blackberry bushes.
Last year, there were a couple of dozen berries. I kept tasting them, but they were too tart. A day before I planned to pick them, they all disappeared. Apparently, the birds knew they were ripe, too.
This year, I covered them with netting three weeks ago. I put some netting underneath, too. Every day, I collect a dozen or so berries. It’s tricky deciding if they’re ripe. They are fully ripe if you touch them and they fall into your hand, but then they must be eaten or used pretty quickly or they dissolve into juice.
Picking them while still a little tart and baking them is a fine solution. So far, we’ve had peach/blackberry crumble (a big hit) and this blackberry buckle, a moist, light cake surrounding the luscious berries. This is a combination of several recipes. Some called for twice as many berries, but I like this ratio best.
If the berries were fully ripe, I think I would skip the mashing step, and just place them on top of the batter. But, the store-bought berries or those that are a little tart benefit from a slight mash and some sugar.
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups fresh blackberries
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon raw sugar (or sugar)*
Preheat oven to 350°.
Mash the blackberries a little (especially if they are really large). Blackberries are usually a tart fruit; if yours are, sprinkle with a little sugar, which will release some of the juices, too. Set aside. If berries are fall-apart ripe, skip the mashing.
Melt butter in a 10-inch cake pan or casserole dish in the oven. (Keep an eye on it, you just want the butter melted). Take out and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Add milk and vanilla extract and whisk just until well combined. Add the melted butter and whisk gently to combine.
Pour mixture into your still buttery pan and spoon the blackberries and their juices into the center. Sprinkle with raw sugar.
Bake until the top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the batter comes out clean, 50 minutes to 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream (or vanilla ice cream).
* I keep a jar of raw sugar in the cupboard to sprinkle on muffins, scones or desserts like this blackberry buckle. It gives them a sparkle and crunch.
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