This is the time of year that I forage for wild blackberries, which grow wild here in Northern California. Luckily I don't have to go very far to pick them: they grow all over the sides of a trail right behind my house.
Picking blackberries brings back a lot of memories of growing up in Calabria. I would pick wild blackberries (called more in Italian), wild alpine strawberries and raspberries along the trails to get to my dad's mountain farm. Going to the mountain farm was a fun hike, as I would fill my belly with berries. The ones I didn't eat right away I used to thread on a strand of grass rush (Juncus tenuis); this way I could carry a lot more of them than if I kept them loose in my hands, and I could keep my hands relatively clean and completely free for picking other things!
I taught my son this trick last week when we went foraging. We took the pictures below to show you what they look like on the grass strand:
This is a great example of how in Calabria we always used what nature gave us. We had no plastic Ziploc or plastic containers; we were always green!
We'll be picking blackberries at least once a week for approximately another month. We ventured out again yesterday and managed to pick the equivalent of eight pints in about 45 minutes. My son ends up eating more than he puts in the basket, just as I used to when I was a kid. I let him decide what to do with all the berries that he doesn't eat right away, so we spent the entire afternoon making a crostata with blackberries and nectarines:
We also made gelato (see my recipe below)...
...a wild blackberry mousse, and pureed some as a sauce that we used on top of french toast for breakfast. Next week I'll be making some jam with the blackberries I pick.
If you see bushes of wild blackberries, give yourself a treat straight from nature. Just be careful of the thorns: they like to scratch your legs and arms, so it helps to wear jeans and a long sleeved shirt.
Gelato alle more (Wild Blackberry Ice Cream)
1.5 cups blackberry puree (about 3 cups of berries)
2 cups milk
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 tablespoon Maraschino or Kirsch
1. Puree the blackberries in a blender and strain through a fine sieve to remove all the seeds. Measure 1.5 cups and set aside. If you have leftover puree, save it and make a sauce with it by adding sugar and some lemon juice to taste.
2. Place the milk in a medium-size, heavy saucepan and bring it to a simmer over medium heat.
3. While the milk is heating, in a medium size bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until the yolks are pale yellow and the mixture is thick and creamy.
4. Slowly pour half the hot milk into the bowl with the egg mixture, whisking until well blended. Pour the milk/egg mixture in the bowl back into the milk remaining in the saucepan, whisking as you pour. Place the saucepan back over medium heat. Stir constantly and cook until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Transfer the mixture to a large, clean bowl and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Add the blackberry puree, the cream, the liqueur and mix well. Place in the refrigerator to chill. When sufficiently chilled, transfer to an ice cream freezer and freeze according to the manufacturer's directions.
Serve with some blackberries or with the remaining puree sweetened to taste.
Makes about 2 quarts
Copyright 2009, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.