Blackberries are in season! This small window of time, when the prolific wild blackberries scent the Pacific NW air with deliciousness, I think living here is the best place in the world. Those long winter nights, blue-less skies, torrents of rain, all forgotten the moment I stick the first plump purple gem in my mouth.
And, as if blackberries themselves weren’t enough reason to celebrate, they’re free here, for the taking, for anyone willing to go pick them. They grow everywhere. Kinda like dandelions. And not always appreciated. (I rarely see people picking the berries, so I guess they’re all for me! )
Once the blackberries come on, I try to make it out to pick them at least a couple times a week. I freeze them individually, then bag them and use them all year for all sorts of things. Sometimes I also can them. Or make freezer jam. Blackberry pie or crisp or cobbler. Smoothies. Mmmm.
One of the things I love about picking blackberries is scavenging off the land. There’s such a satisfaction in picking gallons of free, healthy, delicious berries that would have otherwise cost me hundreds of dollars (last summer I picked about 20 gallons, for example). Foraging in the city? It’s completely possible.
I usually look like I was let loose in a lion cage after I return from my blackberry outings. I sacrifice a lot of blood in the process of picking these berries, and gain lots of itchy scratches that sting for a few days. This is because the best, most plump berries are just out of my reach. Only, I think I pick them anyway. Before I know it, I’m tangled. Every. Single. Time. I. Pick. (I swear those branches dive for me!)
Besides the unfortunate scratches, stickers and scrapes, I also have to walk by the chicken coop on my way home from my favorite picking place. All the girls have my number. They line up along the fence, look cute as ever, and beg me to drop some blackberries off for them.
I almost always cave in. My chickens love blackberries as much as me. (And they are free, after all.)
Every year, I can a new recipe I’ve never tried before. This past week, when I flipped through The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (while munching on a bowl of freshly picked blackberries), I stumbled upon this recipe for blackberry liqueur syrup. It’s a super simple recipe, low in added sugar and uses raspberry liqueur.
Although I’m really not much of a syrup kind of person, when I read the sidebar note, “try it over puff pastries stuffed with lemon cream or lemon sorbet”, I decided I needed to do some field-testing with this recipe. So, I made a batch. And after tasting it, I made 2 more. Mmmmm.
To call this concoction syrup doesn’t do it justice. The raspberry liqueur adds a richness and depth that surprised me. In a lick-the-bowl-clean kind of way. Very tasty. (I think it needs a new, classier name than syrup!)
Here’s the recipe for you to try, too.
Blackberry Liqueur Syrup
(recipe says it makes 3 8-oz jars, I found it generally made 4 8-oz jars)
4 cups blackberries
½ cup Chambord or other raspberry liqueur
¾ cup sugar
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 pouch liquid pectin
Prepare canner and lids (if you need help with this part, go here.)
In large stainless steel saucepan, combine blackberries, Chambord and sugar. Cover and let stand for 2 hours, stirring occasionally to dissolve sugar. Add lemon zest and juice; bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Stir in liquid pectin and return to a full rolling boil. Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim off foam, if necessary.
Ladle hot syrup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add jar lid and ring and tighten.
Place jars in canner, covering them with water, an inch or so over the top (or more). Bring to a boil and process for 1o minutes. Remove canner lid, let set for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place them in an area where they can sit undisturbed until completely cooled and sealed.
By the way, if you don’t have The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (where I found this recipe), I highly recommend it. It contains around 400 canning recipes and lots of information to help you do it right. Although I love my ever-growing collection of canning books, I find I return to this one more often than any other.
And look at these cute little jars a friend gave me for Christmas. I’ve been saving them for the perfect fancy-tasting thing. This is it. The jars are called Quattro Stagioni and you can get them here. In case you want to fancy things up a bit, too.
PS If you have leftover blackberries from this project, treat yourself to a yummy blackberry mojito. Here’s the recipe. Mmmm.
Do you have a new (or favorite) recipe you’re canning this year? If so, what is it?