by Torrey Douglass
The heat of summer can persist well into the fall months in inland Mendocino County, where, in some years, September is more of an August 2.0. While we are usually more than ready for the relief of cooler weather, there are some benefits when summer stretches, for as long as the warmth is around, the blackberries are, too.
This non-native invader is scrappy and opportunistic, thriving in thin soil and dry conditions that discourage plants with gentler natures. If you don’t have blackberries on your property, just keep your eyes open while driving county roads. You’ll often see cars pulled over at large thickets growing just past the shoulder, with people reaching gingerly over the thorn-encrusted tendrils to pluck the juicy gems. Wonderful on their own, in muffins, or sprinkled over cereal, they also make a knock-out tart. Brave the thorns and bring this concoction to your next potluck—and listen to the Mmmms roll in.
For the dough
¼ c very cold water
1 c unbleached flour
¼ tsp salt (omit if using salted butter)
¾ stick of cold butter cut into small cubes
For the filling
Approx. 3 c of fresh blackberries
2-3 Tb sugar
Cut the cubed butter into the flour either with a pastry blender or by hand—I use a Cuisinart and it works great. Add ¾ of the water and mix or stir with a fork until it forms clumps. Keep adding water until a dough is formed, damp and uniform but not overly sticky.
Divide the big ball of dough into two. Wrap each in plastic, then squash into disks. Chill in the fridge for at least an hour, then roll it out to 1/4” thickness on a floured surface. The rolled dough does not need to be a perfect circle. Place the rough circle of dough on a cookie sheet on top of a piece of parchment paper to keep it from sticking. Sprinkle the top with a little flour so the fruit doesn’t make it too soggy as it bakes. Add the fruit in a tight circle in the center in one layer, then sprinkle with sugar.
Fold the dough over the fruit—it will not meet, so some of the fruit will still be visible in the center. Brush the top of the dough with melted butter, then sprinkle with more sugar and put in a 400° oven for 45–55 minutes until the crust is lightly browned. Slide onto a rack to cool.