Monday, August 11, 2008

Blackberry: Picking. Eating. Pie

by Seamus Heaney

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.

We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.

On Sunday afternoon Julia and I ventured down to _____(undisclosed location) to pick blackberries. On the way, we were distracted by a small patch of beautiful pink thimble berries! We picked a few and then made our way to the blackberry patch, where there was an immense cache of berries--plump and DRIPPING off of the bushes! The picking was INTENSE--with recent heavy rains, the mosquitos are attacking in swarms and droves. We wore long pants and long sleeved shirts buttoned up to the top button (both for the thorns and the bugs), and slathered ourselves with bug balm, but it was not much use. To be able to stand it, we had to be entirely intent on the picking, not even allowing ourselves to be distracted by jokes or chit chat. We needed stamina, focus and determination. Julia compared it to the Olympics (Berry Picking: London 2012!). But we battled through the bugs, heat and impending thunderstorm, and walked away, scratched and bitten, but triumphant with 7 yogurt containers-full.

Blackberry Eating
by Galway Kinnell
I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched or broughamed,
many-lettered, one syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry eating in late September.

Once I got home, 2 of the containers were immediately washed and of course, prepared for pie.

I adapted the filling recipe from Rose Levy Beranbaum's Blackberry pie recipe in The Pie & Pastry Bible. 

Blackberry Pie
Nothing-in-the-House pie crust
7 c. FRESH blackberries
3/4 c. white sugar
3/4 c. brown sugar
2.5 Tblsp. arrowroot (thickener)
pinch of salt
2 tsp. lemon zest
pinch ginger
2 Tbslp. lemon juice

1. Prepare Nothing-in-the-House Pie crust as per the directions.

2. Mix sugar, arrowroot, salt, lemon zest, and ginger. Then add lemon juice and berries.

I had some leftover pie-crust dough (whole wheat) in the fridge, which I used for a nice, yet incomplete, lattice top. This was my first time using arrowroot as a thickener, and I like its effect. It doesn't leave behind any taste and is more 'natural' (less processed) than corn starch. Next time I might use a little more as the pie was rather runny:

SP came over with vanilla ice cream, along with Mandy, Graham, Julia, and Katy. We had some snacks (ginger tea, cucumber-olive salad by Mandy, tomato chutney and rhubarb-ginger jam by Julia) and then entered the Pie Enjoyment Zone.

SP, Julia & Graham in the PEZ

Katy in the PEZ & Mandy in the non-PEZ/COSPEZ.

After the pie, we headed to the Firehouse for the Greg Davis & Eric Chenaux show, which was really lovely-- if you were to think of what the appropriate music would be to depict the blackberry poems above, this might have been it.


vervolf1 said...

Question: is a quiche a pie?

emily said...

i say yes. an egg pie.

Michelle said...

yum! blackberry season. we have SO MANY blackberries in our backyard here in portland, i almost can't keep up. i eat them on my breakfast, freeze them, make fruit salad for potlucks, put them on sorbet. i want to make a pie but i am SO BAD at making crust. it's always way too crispy. does this mean i handle it too much? i will have to practice once it cools down a little more.


(p.s. the blackberry we have is considered a pretty bad invasive species here. it takes over like crazy and has huge prickles. in addition to the bush/vine covering our other shrubs and compost pile, there is another huge vine growing over trees taller than our house!)

emily said...

it could mean you're handling it too much...your butter should be really cold and you should stop mixing JUST when it comes together, so there are still large chunks of butter (or shortening, if that's your jam).

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