Blackberries, Cultivated or Wild

We have a small stand of cultivated blackberries at the edge of the kitchen garden.  The variety is Triple Crown Thornless Blackberry from Raintree Nursery whose catalog description praises them as “productive, tasty and hardy” with superb flavor. 

Why, with such abundance of wild blackberries along hedgerows and roadsides on Lopez Island, would we give garden space to cultivated berries?  Well, the flavor really is superb, the berries are larger than wild berries and they have fewer seeds.  And the vines have no thorns.  All that said though, I still cover my arms and legs with thornproof clothing and head to the brambles along our west property line for the pleasure of harvesting wild blackberries.  Wild or cultivated, in the end what’s most important is the pie, and both make wonderful pies.

In 2019, in New York Times Cooking Melissa Clark published a recipe for Blackberry Jam Crostata. I tried it then and have been making it this time of year ever since.  As Clark writes: “With a press-in-the-pan buttery cookie crust and a tangy jam filling that’s topped with almonds and Demerara sugar, this crostata is simple, homey and utterly delightful.”  

Either cultivated or wild blackberries work here.  I usually replace the blueberries with more blackberries because I love the intense blackberry flavor.  And I hold back on the sugar by about 50 grams, adding more at the end if needed.

Blackberry Jam Crostata

For the Filling

3 cups/340 grams blackberries

1 cup/125 grams blueberries

¾ cup/150 grams granulated sugar, plus more as needed

2 teaspoons minced fresh lemon verbena (optional)

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice, plus more as needed

½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

⅓ cup sliced almonds

Demerara sugar, for sprinkling

For the Crust

1½ cups/190 grams all-purpose flour

¾ cup/95 grams whole-wheat flour

12 tablespoons/170 grams unsalted butter (1½ sticks), softened

½ cup/100 grams granulated sugar

2 large egg yolks, at room temperature

1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ teaspoon almond extract

Preparation

  1. Step 1

Make the jam: In a medium saucepan, stir together blackberries, blueberries, sugar and lemon verbena, if using. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally at first, then more frequently as the mixture starts to bubble and reduce.

  1. Step 2

When mixture has reduced and looks syrupy (about 30 minutes total), stir in lemon juice and zest. Taste and add sugar if necessary. (This depends on how sweet your berries were to begin with.) Cook for 3 minutes longer, stirring frequently to prevent burning. When the jam is thickened and shiny but still slightly runnier than you expect jam to be, take it off the heat; it will continue to thicken as it cools.

  1. Step 3

Scrape jam into a bowl or heatproof container, stir in vanilla and let cool to room temperature. Taste and stir in a little more lemon juice if the jam seems very sweet. At this point, the cooled jam can be chilled for up to 1 week.

  1. Step 4

Make the dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together all-purpose and whole-wheat flours, and set aside. In a second bowl and using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in egg yolks, lemon zest, vanilla, salt and almond extract until combined, then beat in flour mixture.

  1. Step 5

Scoop ½ cup of the dough into a bowl or container, cover and chill. Transfer remaining dough to a 9- or 10-inch tart pan and use floured fingers to press evenly into bottom and sides. Chill crust in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.

  1. Step 6

When ready to bake, heat oven to 350 degrees. Spread jam evenly into crust, then using your fingers, crumble reserved ½ cup dough over jam. Sprinkle with almonds and Demerara sugar.

  1. Step 7

Bake until golden, 38 to 48 minutes. Let cool completely to room temperature before serving.

A close tie with this Blackberry Jam Crostata is Anjou Bakery’s Marionberry Pie.  Just off the highway in Cashmere, WA, Anjou Bakery is our favorite bakery stop when driving to eastern Washington.  I made this pie using our triple crown blackberries to mark the 70th birthday of a friend who shares our love of this pie. 

 The crust is like the crostata crust, more cookie than pastry, but the filling is less jam-like, some of the whole berries holding their shape. I sometimes add lemon zest to the filling because I like that addition in the crostata jam. I’ve only made this pie with triple crown berries, but I’m guessing it would be just as good with wild blackberries.  

Happy berry picking, cultivated or wild, and happy pie baking!

Marionberry Pie: Anjou Bakery

Ingredients

  • The crust
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 2-tbsp. chunks
  • The filling
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 3/4 pounds (6 1/2 cups) fresh or frozen marionberries or other blackberries (for frozen, measure, thaw until somewhat softened, and use all juices)
  • Coarse white sparkling sugar*

How to Make It

Step 1

Make crust: Combine dry ingredients in a stand mixer. Add butter and beat with paddle attachment on low speed, scraping bowl as needed, until pieces are raisin-size. With mixer still on low speed, drizzle in 1 tbsp. ice water; beat until pastry comes together, 1 1/2 to 3 minutes. Form 1 1/4 cups into a disk and the rest into a smaller disk.

Step 2

Preheat oven to 375° with rack on bottom rung. On a lightly floured board, roll larger disk into a 12-in. circle. Loosen with a long metal spatula, gently roll around a rolling pin, then unroll into a 9-in. pie pan (if dough cracks, press back together). Fold edge under, so it’s flush with pan rim, then crimp (don’t let stand too high because it falls off in oven). Chill 15 minutes.

Step 3

Roll remaining dough into an 11-in. circle. With a cookie cutter, cut out as many shapes, such as squares, as needed to cover most of pie. Set cutouts on a baking sheet; chill 15 minutes.

Step 4

Make filling: Stir together cornstarch and granulated sugar in a large bowl. (Lemon zest is good addition.) Add berries with juices and toss to coat. Arrange evenly in pie shell. Lightly brush pastry cutouts with water and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Arrange cutouts over filling.

Step 5

Bake pie until filling bubbles and pastry is golden in center, 55 to 60 minutes (up to 1 1/2 hours if berries were frozen); if edge starts to get dark, cover with foil, and if pie starts to bubble over, put a rimmed pan underneath it.

Step 6

Let cool on a rack to room temperature, at least 3 hours.

2 thoughts on “Blackberries, Cultivated or Wild

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