Monday, August 22, 2016

the summer of blackberries

Collage - Blackberries
If I remember the summer of 2016 for anything, it will be for the Olympics and the blackberries. I've spent the past few months avoiding society and generally hiding from the world. Perhaps it's not the most constructive way of dealing with things when life gets tough, but it's what I tend to do in overwhelming, uncomfortable, and stressful situations. So I've spent the summer as a homebody - drawing in my sketchbook, watching the Olympics on TV, and eating my weight in blackberries.

I like to go berry picking in the summer and on the last day of July, Larry and I set out in search of some nature therapy and some berries. At the time, I wanted blueberries. I knew the blueberry season was coming to an end, but we checked the websites of several farms which said there was still scattered blueberry picking available. We decided not to go to our usual berry farm and to try somewhere new, so following the directions on the website, Larry called Catoctin Mountain Orchard to verify that they were open and had blueberries available. The answers were yes and yes, so we drove 65 miles to Thurmont, Maryland. Upon our arrival, we inquired about blueberry picking and were told "Oh, we don't do u-pick on Sundays." WHAT. I was more than a little peeved. What's the point of calling ahead if you get incorrect information...anyway, it was time for Plan B. So we headed back to our favorite, reliable farm, Butler's Orchard, in Germantown. In the past, we've picked blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries at Butler's, but it had been a few years since we were last there. I was dismayed to learn that they now have a cover charge to get onto the picking fields. It really irritates me to have to spend money to get into a place where I am going to buy something. That being said, since we had paid a cover charge, I didn't feel bad about sampling a few berries straight off the vine. (Maybe this is why they have the cover charge? Are people eating the produce in the fields? Anyway, between the two of us, the cover charge was equivalent to the cost of two pounds of berries, which we certainly did not eat from the vine!) Enough complaints, though, onto the picking...

We drove up to the blueberry fields, and as we had been warned, the blueberry picking was "scattered." There were very few berries, and the berries that were left were puny. It wasn't much fun, so we headed to the blackberry fields instead, which were dripping with huge juicy berries. We picked almost 9 pounds of blackberries! I've lost interest in carrying my DSLR camera with me and photographing everything these days, so here are a few iPhone pics:
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
summer of blackberries
Everyone always asks me what I do with 9 pounds of berries. For a berry-addict like me, it isn't hard to use up all those berries, plus I enjoy the challenge of finding and testing new recipes. It was Iron Chef Battle Blackberry in the Smoellke Test Kitchen and I think blackberries have comprised 75% of my diet over the past few weeks. I love trying new recipes, but honestly, my favorite way to eat any berries, is straight up in a bowl. Blackberries are also a great drink ingredient, so I made more than a few purple cocktails.
summer of blackberries
Here are 15 ways we ate and drank blackberries this summer, as pictured above, left to right:

 1. Straight up with a little sugar
 2. Blackberry Gin Fizz
 3. Blackberry and Pecan Grilled Pizza
 4. Blackberry PiƱa Colada
 5. Big Ass Salad with Blackberries and Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette
 6. Blackberry Whiskey Sour
 7. Blackberry Cheesecake Galette
 8. Blackberry Mezcal Smash
 9. Blackberry Cream Pie with Toasted Oat and Sesame Crumb Crust
10. Bourbon Blackberry Collins
11. Vegan Pancakes with Blackberry Syrup
12. Blackberry Shrubs: Blackberry-Rum Shrub and Blackberry Bourbon & Maple Syrup Shrub
13. Blackberry Cornmeal Muffins
14. Blackberry Pineapple Smash
15. Blackberry-Pineapple Sidecar

That Blackberry-Pineapple Sidecar is one of my favorite cocktails ever. I may have drank three last night. They're good medicine when you've had a tough few months, but perhaps an even less healthy coping method than hiding under a rock. ;)

And with that, all the blackberries are gone and the Olympics are over. Until next year/2020...