You can plan for wild blackberries, following their slow progression for months. In the late spring and early summer, along the edge of the woods, they show their pretty white flowers. The five petals look like a primrose pattern. Then, those petals fall, and the center of the flower morphs into a tiny, green version of the mature berry, which, in the woods where I harvest, can get fatter than any market blackberry I’ve ever seen.
You should be seeing blackberries any day now, if you aren’t seeing them already. Here in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, we can expect blackberries in a couple of weeks, but they’re already on their way out in parts of the southern Midwest.
Eat your blackberries plain. Eat as many as you can right from the stalk. That’s when they’re perfect. Make jam, vinegar, pies. Stuff them into pasties. Then, ferment them.
You already know my jam and vinegar methods, so I want to share a fun way to do something completely different and create a salty seasoning from your harvest. Before you do that, I should say: Eat your blackberries plain. Eat as many as you can right from the stalk. That’s when they’re perfect. Make jam, vinegar, pies. Stuff them into pasties. Then, if you’re more adventurous, ready to move on from sweets, and maybe thinking more about homesteading these days, ferment them. For this savory application, you’ll need a scale, a jar, salt, and at least a quart of blackberries.
Weigh the berries in grams. Add one percent of that weight in kosher salt. Mix thoroughly. As when making kraut, let the salt draw out the juices. Place the berries in a fermentation jar with lid. Let the juice cover the berries and ferment for seven to ten days. (Alternately, if you have a vacuum sealer, seal the berries and salt and allow to ferment for the same amount of time.) Once fermentation is complete, strain off the liquid. The flavor should be sour, salty, and sweet. Use it in marinades and salad dressings, or anywhere you’d use salt. In the refrigerator, it should last for a month, if not longer.
Don’t throw the berries away. At this point, they’re probably mush and seeds. Spread that paste on a tray and dry it, either in the dehydrator or in the oven with the pilot light on. Then, in a mortar and pestle or blender, pulverize your fermented fruit paste. Use the powder like salt, add it to stews, sprinkle it over salad as a bright little garnish, or circle back to a sweet dessert by adding it to any ice cream for a tart-and-salty kick.