Cooking with Blackberries – Fresh or Frozen – And Our Favorite Recipes
Oct 16, 2023
Cooking with Blackberries opens up a diverse array of recipe ideas. From cocktails, sweet baking dishes, to savory sauces and glazes, explore the amazing flavors and diversity of dishes that blackberries offer. These delicious berries also a powerhouse of nutrition.
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Where Do Most US Blackberries Come From?
While blackberries are cultivated in various regions throughout the US, the state of Oregon stands out prominently. Favored by its distinctive climate and fertile terrains, Oregon proudly claims the title of the nation’s primary blackberry producer, accounting for a majority of all frozen blackberries consumed domestically in the US.
We’re also very lucky to live in Oregon, surrounded by the bounty of this incredible berry.
Most people don’t realize that there are dozens of blackberry varieties, and those will change depending on where in the world you are. Like apples, most berry varieties have names, the most famous being the Marionberry (which originated in Marion County, Oregon). The following are some of the most popular in Oregon and likely found in the frozen section in your local grocer.
|Columbia Star blackberries are known for their complex and rich flavor. They offer a delightful combination of sweetness with subtle tart undertones. Their taste is often described as bright and juicy, which makes them exceptional for fresh eating as well as in desserts and jams.
|Marionberries possess a unique taste that sets them apart. They have an intense, robust blackberry flavor – a harmonious blend of sweet and tart. The initial sweetness transitions into a mild tang, which is why they’re beloved in pies, jams, and even beverages like wines and liqueurs.
|Triple Crown blackberries are renowned for their balanced flavor profile. They carry a pronounced sweetness complemented by a hint of tartness. Their large, juicy berries make them a favorite for fresh consumption, and their sweetness shines in culinary dishes.
In addition to the popular varieties there are others that may not have large production but so worth seeking out if they are grown near you, one of which is the Tayberry.
Tayberries are not just blackberries; they are a cross between blackberries and red raspberries. As a result, their tart and berry forward flavor captures the best of both worlds. They tend to be sweeter than most blackberries but maintain a slight tartness reminiscent of raspberries.
Their unique flavor makes them a favorite for fresh eating, desserts, and especially jams, where their combined flavor can truly shine. They are also great for baking and salads.
Cooking with Blackberries – Fresh Blackberries vs. Frozen
We have toured the fields during harvest and witnessed firsthand the great care farmers take in picking the berries at the optimized time and optimal sugar levels. If picked for freezing, they go immediately to the processing plant right after harvest to be flash frozen to maintain and preserve that fresh flavor.
- Texture and Flavor: Fresh berries have that immediate burst of juicy flavor and a fragile texture. Frozen counterparts, although softer post-thawing, maintain most of their original taste.
- Convenience: Fresh berries demand meticulous cleaning, while frozen ones are usually pre-washed, ready for culinary use.
- Availability: While fresh blackberries are seasonal delights, their frozen siblings grace the supermarket shelves all year round.
- Cooking Applications: Fresh berries excel in salads or garnishes. Frozen berries, however, shine in smoothies, baked goodies, and sauces.
Health Benefits of Blackberries
- Rich in Vitamins and Minerals: Blackberries are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, and magnesium, vital for immune function, bone health, and wound healing.
- Packed with Antioxidants: They are rich in anthocyanins, which have been linked to a reduced risk of certain chronic diseases, including heart disease.
- Dietary Fiber: Blackberries provide a substantial amount of fiber, aiding in digestion and contributing to heart health.
- Beneficial for Skin Health: Their vitamin C content helps in collagen formation, promoting skin elasticity and radiance.
Berry seasons will vary throughout the US – but the Oregon blackberry season takes place in late Spring through early Fall. If it’s outside that season seek out frozen blackberries.
- Local Farmer or U-Pick: The first place we encourage you to source blackberries is your local farmer. It’s where you can find various varieties that aren’t commonly found in the grocery store.
- Farmers Markets: If you can’t travel to a farm then check out your local farmers markets throughout the country. You’ll likely be able to taste the berries and pick from the most ripe.
- Grocery Stores: As we said blackberry season is primarily from late spring through early fall and is the best time to find local fresh berries. However some blackberries are shipping in from around the world throughout the year. They may not be as ripe or flavorful, and when cooking with blackberries may need some added sugar to offset the blandness of some berries found off-season.
- Frozen Berries: The next best thing to fresh seasonal blackberries are frozen berries. You can find them in the frozen section of most grocery stores, and the chances are that you are buying and supporting a local Oregon grower. We use them all the time and they taste amazing. Remember, frozen blackberries were picked at the optimal freshness and flash frozen immediately. They maintain incredible flavor.
Cleaning and Preparation
- If there is one thing to take away from this article it’s to be sure that you rinse fresh blackberries right before you plan to use them in a recipe. This prevents any early molding if you rinse them too soon.
- Rinsing removes any spray, dirt, leaves, or other items that may have been collected from the field.
- For sauces and glazes you can add the frozen blackberries to the dish right from the freezer. They will thaw quickly and reduce like any fresh berry.
- For baking it’s advised to remove them from the freezer and let them thaw for 30 minutes prior to using them. We like to place a colander over a paper towel to collect any juice that bleeds off as it thaws. If you thaw too soon the berries juice will run so we recommend thawing 30 minutes prior to use.
Innovative Ways to Incorporate Blackberries
There are so many creative ways to cook with blackberries. Here are a few of our favorties.
- Desserts: Envision blackberry pies, crumbles, or mousses. Their unique sweet-tart profile elevates any dessert.
- Savory Combinations: Blackberries bring a fresh twist to savory dishes, especially with meats like duck or pork. A blackberry glaze is a must-try!
- Beverages: Whether a blackberry cocktail or a morning smoothie, they add a vibrant punch.
- Preserves: Beyond the traditional jam, consider blackberry sauces or dressings. One of my favorite sweet treats is a Chocolate Pot de Crème topped with a homemade smoked blackberry jam.
Frequently Asked Questions
They might be cousins, but blackberries boast a more substantial size, darker hue, and a distinct flavor.
Generally, yes. But for texture-sensitive dishes like salads or cocktails, fresh ones might be preferable.
Refrigerate them, washing only before consumption to prevent early spoilage.
Blackberries are not just a culinary delight but also a healthful addition to any diet. Their myriad benefits coupled with their versatile nature make them a favorite among chefs and nutritionists alike. So, the next time you cook, think blackberries – your body and palate will thank you!
Our Favorite Blackberry Recipes
Here are a few of our favorite blackberry recipes from cocktails to savory dishes and everything in between.