They stopped beside a wild blackberry bramble on a two-lane road into Guerneville, along the way to Russian River. It was late summer and the ripe berries called to them, my sister and my son. I waited for them at a rented cottage, listened for the sound of a car pulling up outside while I puttered with potato salad and sandwiches. They were late. I did not know why.
Eventually the warm hum of my sister’s car signaled they were outside and I went to greet them. My son burst past me with a small box in his hands. “Where’s the refrigerator?” he shouted, charging into a small bedroom, turning, bursting back into the living room, frantic.
“In the kitchen,” my bewildered reply. Where else would it be, I thought, and followed him. My sister appeared with luggage in hand and followed into the kitchen, dropping the load in front of the stove.
“We can make millions!” my son shouted my sister laughing and running water in the sink. “Let’s go back and get more! Let’s sell em!”
I realized then my son had been bitten by an abundance of berries, acres of the fruit ripening on the twisted mat of vines, that he’d been seduced by the idea of scooping berries up by the handful and bringing them home to share, to sell.
I know the feeling of being in the brambles, of the luscious fruit just beyond reach. We used to pick blackberries in the fall, taking long boards to lay against the vines, creating wobbly platforms into the richest parts of the brambles. I know the lust.
I also know about wearing long-sleeved flannel shirts, jeans and boots in the heat of the day to protect from the thorns. I know the peril of falling into the brambles, of waiting still until help arrived to carefully pull me out, the thorns cutting like razors and tattering my clothes. I know it’s not easy to be a blackberry millionaire.
I didn’t prick my 9-year-olds euphoric bubble that afternoon, didn’t explain about the perils. Instead, we ate sandwiches and potato salad. My sister made a cobbler for desert and we talked about what we’d do with our blackberry millions.
There’s no need to put yourself in harm’s way for berries. There are skilled farmers who take the risks and bring the berries to you. Summer is berry season and the Oregon Raspberry & Blackberry Commission offers two summer recipes featuring blackberries to enjoy while figuring out where to spend your millions:
Tuscan Quinoa Salad
· 1 cup Quinoa uncooked
· 2 cups water
· ¼ teaspoon of salt
· ½ Tablespoon vegetable oil
· 1 lb chicken Italian sausage, cooked and sliced
· ½ cup parsley
· ½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
· ¼ cup green onions, sliced
· ½ cup red pepper – sliced thinly lengthwise
· 1-cup fresh or defrosted frozen blackberries
· ¼ cup white wine vinegar
· ¼ Extra Virgin Olive Oil
· 2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley
· ¼ teaspoon salt
· 1/8-teaspoon black pepper
Whisk vinegar, olive oil, parsley, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Set aside
Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Stir in quinoa and salt. Reduce to low; cover. Simmer 10-15 minutes or until water is absorbed and quinoa is fluffy. Transfer to large size bowl. Cool 10 minutes.
Toss quinoa with dressing. Stir in green onions, red pepper slices, sliced sausage and parsley. Mix well.
Gently stir in blackberries to combine with salad
Top with shaved Parmesan. Serve immediately
Almond Buttermilk Shortcakes with Blackberry Filling
· 2 1/4 cups all purpose white flour
· 1/3-cup sugar plus 1 tablespoon for sprinkling over biscuits
· 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
· 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
· ¼ teaspoon salt
· ½ cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
· 2/3 cup buttermilk
· 1 beaten egg
· 1 teaspoon almond extract
· 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier
· 1 tablespoon grated orange peel
· 1 tablespoon whole milk
· 1/4 cup sliced almonds
Coat a baking sheet lightly with non-stick cooking spray or line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
In a mixing bowl, stir together flour, 1/3-cup sugar, baking powder and baking soda. Using a pastry cutter or your fingertips, cut butter into the flour mixture until crumbly. In a small bowl, combine buttermilk, egg, Grand Marnier, orange peel and almond extract. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk, mixture. With a fork, stir just until combined, adding additional buttermilk, as necessary, to from slightly sticky dough. Do not over mix.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and sprinkle with a little flour. With your fingertips, gently pat dough to an even 1-inch thickness. Using a 3 inch round cookie cutter, cut out shortcakes and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Gather together scraps of dough, re-roll and cut remaining shortcakes. You should have 6 shortcakes. Brush milk over shortcakes. Scatter almonds over the tops and sprinkle lightly with the remaining 1 Tbsp. sugar.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Bake shortcakes for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Transfer them to a rack and let cool slightly
· 6 cups fresh or thawed frozen blackberries or Marionberries
· 1/3-cup sugar preferably superfine
· 1-pint heavy cream
· 1 tablespoon sugar
· 1 teaspoon of Grand Marnier
In a large bowl mix berries and 1/3 cup sugar set aside for a few minutes. Whip cream with tablespoon of sugar and liqueur until soft peaks form.
Using a serrated knife split the shortcakes. Set bottoms on dessert plates: spoon on whipped cream and then the fruit mixture and crown with lids. Top with whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately.