Thursday, September 17, 2009


Blackberries are a fruit I enjoy. But sun-warmed blackberries, picked by the roadside in Sonoma County on a day with blue sky and a few picturesque clouds? Wow. Those blackberries are indescribably delicious.

B and I have been on a couple of blackberry-picking expeditions recently, with excellent results. Over Labor Day weekend, we took my visiting parents to our favorite stretch on the Bohemian Highway near Freestone because we figured eight hands would be better than four. Here's my mom, nearly lost in the thicket of blackberries, picking to her heart's content.

(We also stopped at a fantastic bakery in Freestone that A introduced us to. Get the cheesy, sourdough, hearty fougasse bread. It's a wonderful treat, especially when fresh and warm out of the oven, before or after a bike ride on the rolling hills in this area—though truthfully, some of the hills are more like steep mountains. B can handle them much better than I can.)

The ripe, uber-black blackberries were easy to come by. Here's just one of many sprays of berries.

When we saw a similar, heavily-laden branch last year when we were cycling with A&K, K picked off one of the "raspberries" and was shocked at how tart it tasted.

It turns out that eight hands are better than four, and we ended up with a ton of blackberries. The first order of business when we got home in the evening was making jam. My mom and I went a little nuts with the home-preserving business while she was visiting; we made pickles, nectarine preserves, applesauce, and three kinds of blackberry-based jam (straight-up, fig-blackberry, and blackberry-fig). When we were making jam, the house smelled fruity and jammy and inviting, but I would advise care in the timing of the pickle-making process: even with the windows open, it smelled potently of vinegar in here for at least a day and a half following the completion of canning.

But the jam! The glorious blackberry jam! The jam was the reason that we (really, I) dragged my parents up to Freestone and put them to work picking. Without getting too poetic, it tastes like summer. A stolen spoonful is delicious, but what it works best with is scones.

Especially scones like these that have a hint of orange zest spicing up each bite, scones that beg to be served with a tangy concoction of cream cheese and sour cream and then topped with a generous helping of blackberry jam. This dairy concoction which ties together the scone and the jam, in the original recipe from Sunset magazine in the 70s, is called "fake Devonshire cream." Even though I lived in England for a year after college, eating more than my fair share of scones including some in Devonshire itself, I'm not sure what Devonshire cream is supposed to taste like. Perhaps they mean the ubiquitous-in-Devonshire clotted cream? If that's the case, the fake cream is not at all like clotted cream, which is much more similar to butter. Regardless, both go beautifully with scones. The difference is that you can make the fake variety in seconds—but good luck finding clotted cream on this side of the pond!

The scones are perfect for breakfast, but B and I also ate a lot of them as afternoon snacks. (Apparently, I really like afternoon snacks.) The jam would be lovely in these cookies, or on toast, or in a PB&J. Enjoy the jam or the scones or both!

Scones with Devonshire Cream
Adapted from Sunset, June 1975

Makes: 12 scones
Time: 10 minutes active, 25 minutes total

For the scones:
2 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 t. baking soda
2 T. sugar
zest of one orange
1/4 c. (half-stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-in pieces
1 slightly beaten egg
2/3 c. buttermilk

For Devon cream:
6 oz. light cream cheese
6 T. sour cream
2 t. sugar

First, make the scones. Preheat oven to 400. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, and zest. Cut butter into flour mixture, until mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in egg and buttermilk and mix quickly. Turn mixture onto lightly-floured board. Split into two parts, and pat each into a round about six inches in diameter. Cut each round into six wedges. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until lightly browned.

While the scones are baking, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, and sugar. Serve the scones warm with Devon cream and jam.

Blackberry Jam
From the Sure-Jell pectin box

Time: 30 minutes active and total
Makes: 9 cups

4 pints blackberries, rinsed
1 box pectin
1 t. butter (optional)
7 cups sugar

Crush the berries with a potato masher. Place berries and pectin in a large (6 or 8 quart) heavy pot on the stove and bring to a boil. Add butter to reduce foaming, if using. When mixture is at a full rolling boil, add sugar. Return to a full rolling boil, and boil for another minute. Ladle hot mixture into prepared jars. Process for 10 minutes.

1 comment:

  1. Count us in next summer for some fougasse and blackberry picking!