It's blackberry time. Initially we were dismayed to discover the city had whacked a few of our favorite nearby berry-picking spots—probably with good reason, because if cockroaches or lichens don't inherit the earth, Himalayan blackberries will—but it didn't take long to locate new berry brakes. Foraging right out the back door in a major metropolitan area is one of those activities that reminds you nature bats last.
While the berries may be late, like everything else this summer, they aren't lacking in robustness (can't say the same about this year's tomato crop). The first flush always has some of the biggest specimens on display, usually high and out of reach, though we still had plenty of plump, juicy monsters at kid level. I like to pick a percentage of less ripened berries as well, as you can see in the image at right; they hold their form nicely in a pie or cobbler and add a touch of color variation.
I'm always amazed that more urban dwellers aren't doing this. The berries are there for the taking! Joggers, power-walkers, and bikers zipped right on by. A few curious pedestrians stopped to see what the fuss was, and even one brave father let his son pick a few berries next to us before hurrying him along the path. Note to parents: Kids love berries! They love to pick 'em themselves. They love blackberry cobbler too. And they don't gripe about how much butter goes into a cobbler, not like their maladjusted elders...
Butter-Worshiper's Blackberry Cobbler
Over the years we've tried any number of different cobbler recipes, and yet I always find myself returning to the sort of presentation you might find in a small-town diner. If you could care less how many grams of fat are in your dessert (it's dessert for crissakes!), this is for you. (Codified by Mark Bittman in How to Cook Everything.)
4-5 cups blackberries
1 cup sugar
8 tbsp unsalted butter (1 stick), cold and cut into small pieces
1/2 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss berries with half the sugar and spread in greased 8-inch square or 9-inch round baking pan.
2. Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and remaining sugar in bowl. Mix in cold butter pieces with a pastry blender until well blended. By hand, beat in egg and vanilla.
3. Drop mixture on fruit by the spoonful; do not spread. Bake until topping is golden yellow, 35 to 45 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream.
Coming Soon: More berry action! Went to Indian Heaven Wilderness this weekend and made off like huckleberry bandits.