By Rose McAvoy
Noxious, thorny, and destructive Himalayan Blackberry vines are everywhere!
For most of the year they are the bane of gardeners, property owners, and even pedestrians whose ankles have been attacked strolling past a vacant lot or hillside. People have gone to dramatic, and even deadly lengths to eradicate this persistent weed, but to no avail. When the end comes, however it comes, I predict these blackberries will join the mighty cockroach in reestablishing organic life on earth.
Of course, unlike roaches*, blackberries have a redeeming quality. The berries are delightful!
We have an undeveloped lot behind our house. Every spring the tops of the vines begin making steady progress up and over our back fence. By midsummer the menacing vines light up with soft milky blossoms alive with bumbling bees. I actually enjoy watching the soft peddles wave with the breeze. During the weeks when the berries swell and change from green to red to black on the trailing stems the backyard is my favorite retreat. I liken the entire scene to an Italian patio covered by grapes hanging heavy from a sagging arbor.
This is probably why late last week I had a sudden urge to simmer blackberries in a bath of balsamic vinegar. Balsamic vinegar is a traditional Italian condiment made from grapes. It is already quite sweet and after simmering with blackberries most of the water content evaporates leaving behind a velvety syrup. The fruity reduction can be drizzled over just about anything you can think of from salad to steak to ice cream.
Recipes like this fuel my romanticized notions about the universally loathed blackberry plant. I look forward to the weeks when we can step into our backyard and eat berries until our bellies are full and our fingers are stained. It is pure summer sweetness, until the second week in September when I pull on leather gloves and hack those thorny devils as far back behind the fence as my arms can reach.
*Please accept my apology for mentioning cockroaches in the lead up to this recipe. They really should be kept out of the context of the kitchen but if you have battled blackberries you know the comparison of these annoyances is reasonable.
Blackberry Balsamic Syrup
Turn a modest balsamic vinegar into a tangy syrup to drizzle over dishes both savory and sweet.
Cook Time: 40 minutes; Yield approximately 1 1/2 cups
2 1/2 cups of ripe blackberries (fresh or frozen)
1 1/2 cups of balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons molasses
1) Place all the ingredients into a large sauce pan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir occasionally and mash the berries gently as they soften. Reduce heat as needed to keep the liquid from reaching a boil.
2) Continue to simmer until the liquid has reduced to a little less than half the original volume. The vinegar should thickly coat the back of a metal spoon.
3) Strain the reduction into a bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Stir and mash to work it through then discard or repurpose the remaining seeds.
4) Store the reduction in a clean jar or glass bottle with a tight fitting lid. It should keep in the refrigerator for weeks.
For this recipe don’t use a fancy balsamic vinegar. Save your top of the line bottles to serve on their own.
Recipe yields about 1 1/2 cups of balsamic reduction.