Back from vacation, I spent a steamy half hour this morning gleaning the last scruffy blackberries from the bramble out back.
They surprised me again this year, putting out roughly 10 quarts over the past month. I’d feared their production would be way down after the construction crew next door bashed in the fence to which my canes are trained – when the guys replaced the fence, they had to prune a number of the vines nearly to the ground.
They were, apparently, happy for the haircut.
I suspect, like the cherries and grapes before them, they further benefited by no longer smacking up against a weed- and critter-filled vacant lot. I didn’t see a single green June bug or Japanese beetle (or even stink bug!) on them this year, and it seems the birds and squirrels kept their distance, too.
Anyhow, the last few baskets picked are always verrrrry ripe, since I’m usually either away when they peak or I’m just downright lazy. Picking blackberries is buggy, scratchy work, and by mid-August, I’m apt to get a little lax, especially if we get a major heatwave.
Overripe berries are perfect, though, for making syrup.
Blackberry Simple Syrup
For sweeter fruits – for cherries and berries, as opposed to, say, rhubarb – I use a simple 3:2:1 ratio of fruit:water:sugar. If your berries are on the tart side, add a little more sugar. And if you’re hoping to use the resulting product on pancakes or waffles, try to find granulated maple sugar, which I sub in at 75%, or 3/4 cup maple sugar for every cup of regular cane sugar.
Makes about 1-1/2 pints, depending on how juicy your fruit is and how much you reduce the syrup.
- 3 cups blackberries, rinsed, picked over, and lightly smashed
- 2 cups filtered water
- 1 cup granulated cane sugar (or 3/4 cup maple sugar)
In a small saucepan, stir together the berries and the water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then drop the heat to a low simmer. Cook for about 10 minutes – intervening every so often to mash a few more berries with the back of a wooden spoon – until the berries are quite soft and barely recognizable as berries.
Fit a fine-mesh strainer over a stable bowl, and pour the mixture in (maybe do this on a cutting board or even in the sink, because, you know, blackberries). Normally, with other fruit syrups, I just let gravity do the work, since pressing down on the fruit means you’ll get some solids in your liquid. But with blackberries, you’ll never see the clouds, so go ahead and press if you like.
Return the strained juice to the pot, add the sugar, and bring to a boil once again.
I usually stop there, since I’m mainly using the end product to flavor drinks. But if you’re going for something closer to pancake-syrup consistency, lower the heat to a simmer and keep on reducing. Just know that, with all that sugar, you’re going to need to watch closely and guard against scorching.
Funnel the hot syrup into clean jars or bottles. Refrigerated, they’ll stay good for about a month. For longer storage, process the jars in a hot-water canning bath for 10 minutes. Once opened, obey the one-month timeline.
Pre-smashed Blackberry Smash
- 2 oz bourbon
- 1 oz blackberry simple syrup
- 1 oz fresh lemon juice
- mint and/or a blackberry for garnish
Load bourbon, syrup, and lemon juice into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake for about 10 seconds, until frothy.
Strain into a rocks glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with berry and mint.