By Sherrie Norris
Growing wild in these hills, blackberries appear to be in abundance this summer. Considered one of the most beneficial fruits of the season, blackberries have been used for generation for their medicinal benefits. There is strong belief by many naturalists — and some scientific proof to back up their claim —that blackberries contain cancer-fighting agents.
Blackberries provide a great source of Vitamin A, C and fiber. A study in 2009 found a connection to improved cognitive and motor skills (in rats), but likely to work the same in humans.
Our ancestors used the juice of blackberries to treat infections of the mouth and eyes, as well as for digestion problems. A wise woman, 100 at the time, once advised me to sip a little blackberry wine for any problem related to the stomach. I have found her “prescription” to be tried and true on numerous occasions. She also told me that she once simply peeled and boil the roots and stems of the blueberry bush, and drank the liquid, for various digestive-related problems.
Blackberries are consumed in a variety of ways – fresh right off the prickly bushes, in fresh fruit salads and smoothies, cooked in jams, and baked in muffins and pies.
On your blackberry hunt, search for those that are firm, plump and fully colored. It’s best not to wash them until ready to use and store in a single layer at room temperature or in the refrigerator.
Their season in these hills is short-lived, so whether for medicinal purposes or just because you like the taste of blackberries, now is the time.
No-Bake Blackberry Cheesecake Bars
6 oz. blackberries
¼ cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1/2 lime
1¼ cup graham crackers, crushed
5 tbsp. butter, melted
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup powdered sugar, divided
2 (8-oz.) blocks cream cheese, softened
¼ cup Greek yogurt, preferably full fat
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lime
Pinch kosher salt
Make blackberry topping: In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook blackberries, sugar, and lime juice. Simmer, breaking up blackberries with a fork, until all blackberries are broken down and mixture just begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Strain mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl. Let cool.
Crust: In a food processor, pulse graham crackers until fine crumbs. In a medium bowl, mix cracker crumbs, sugar and melted butter until mixture looks like wet sand.
Spoon crust mixture into an 8-inch baking dish and smooth into an even layer.
Filling: In a large bowl, beat cream and ¼ cup powdered sugar until stiff peaks form. Transfer whipped cream to another bowl.
In the bowl you used to whip the cream, beat cream cheese and remaining ¾ cup powdered sugar until smooth. Add yogurt, vanilla, lime juice, and a pinch of salt. Beat until no lumps remain. Add about ¼ cup of whipped cream and stir into mixture. Add remaining whipped cream and gently fold in until just combined.
Pour mixture over crust and smooth top with a spatula. Drop blackberry topping by small teaspoon over top of cheesecake. Use a toothpick to swirl mixture into top of cheesecake. Add more blackberry topping until your desired pattern and coverage is reached.
Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least four hours or overnight.
Mama’s Blackberry Cobbler
½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. melted butter
1 cup self-rising flour
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup 2% milk
½ tsp. vanilla extract
3 cups fresh blackberries or frozen unsweetened blackberries Preheat oven to 350°. Pour ½ cup melted butter into an 8-in. square baking dish. In a small bowl, combine flour, 1 cup sugar, milk and vanilla until blended; pour into prepared dish. In another bowl, combine blackberries, remaining ½ cup sugar and remaining 2 tbsp. melted butter; toss until combined. Spoon over batter. Bake until topping is golden brown and fruit is tender, 45-50 minutes. Serve warm.
Easy Blackberry Jam
2.5 quarts fresh or frozen blackberries ( about 8 cups)
2 Tablespoons Lemon juice
7 cups granulated sugar
1 packet Sure-Gel
Clean berries just before using. Combine blackberries and lemon juice in an extra-large saucepan. Mash with a potato masher and simmer for a few minutes, to break down the fruit.
Measure out 4 cups of berries/juice and add to an extra-large heavy bottomed stock pot. Add sugar and stir to combine.
Turn burner to medium low, stirring occasionally, cooking for several minutes until sugar has dissolved.
Increase the heat to medium high, and cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture comes to a full rolling boil that can’t be stirred down.
Add pectin, stirring continuously, and allow to return to a full boil. Set a timer for 1 minute, stirring continuously, and remove from the heat after 1 minute.Pour jam into proper containers for preferred storage methods.(See below).Makes about 8-9 cups of jam.
For freezer jam: Allow mixture to cool at room temperature for 24 hours, then store in the fridge for up to 1 month, or the freezer for up to 1 year.
To can: Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (or longer if at high altitude). Allow to rest on your counter for 24 hours, to ensure the jars settle and seal properly. Check seals, and store jam in a cool, dry place for up to one year.
Note: If you are planning to can the jam, prepare water bath and sterilize jars before beginning.