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the answer is 42

Recipe: pickled blackberries

Happy Autumn, friends! It is, in my opinion, the very best time of year. Autumn is when you can peruse the late summer harvest of greens, tomatoes, melons, and beans at the Crested Butte Farmers Market and see a fresh dusting of snow on the 13,000 foot peaks in the distance. We are getting a taste of some weather too with overnight frosts, cold rains, thick clouds clinging to mountains, and a chance of snow overnight. But weather is a GOOD thing, not just for the ski season (ahem!) but also for the opportunities when our dynamic atmosphere and light interact.

sunset and a clearing storm

It could be that I am biased toward fall because my birthday frequently coincides with the autumnal equinox. But even if my birthday was in July (ugh – I don’t even want to think of it), I would still be utterly devoted to this season. Leaves change, weather cools, the light turns soft and golden. Elk fill the air with their high-pitched bugles and the mountains don their lacy white shawls. It is when the ranchers let their cattle out to graze and trample the dying remnants of summer’s glorious wildflower bloom. Predators chase down prey before the pickings get slim and the bear scat on trails is full of berries.

sun lights up the changing aspen after a rainstorm

and there’s that colorado blue sky

We went for a trail run Sunday afternoon between storms to stretch our legs and scope out the colors. I’m here for the fall shoot and it seems that every year someone declares the leaves are early when in fact, they are almost always “on time”. This year, they seem a tad late as the majority of aspen stands are still green. But where you do see patches of gold and orange punctuated by the rare and glorious reds, they are spectacular. It’s visually obvious that the colors are increasing from one day to the next. Mother Nature is on a schedule.

mount crested butte watches over us (iphone)

i rounded a bend in the trail and saw this glowing stand of orange and yellow (iphone)

green and gold on the hill slopes while a storm moves in up the valley (iphone)

Wait, I lied. We didn’t trail run between storms, we started between storms. The second storm caught up and followed us like that cloud over Charlie Brown’s head. An updraft slapped chilly winds across our legs, bright pink with cold. The clouds unleashed a torrent of frigid rain. It was 43°F, we blasted through muddy puddles as we were already soaked to the bone, and lightning crashed overhead repeatedly. The storm eventually outpaced us. I was cold, wet, and tired… but happy.

Why happy? Because I’m here. I’ve always been the kind of kid who loves to wake up each morning, excited for the day and ready to get started. After chemo repeatedly knocked me on my ass, weakening me further with each infusion, I came to the conclusion that normal is AWESOME. I still love rising each day at age 42, but now with a hint of urgency and a lot more gusto. Every morning is a gift. Each sunrise is never taken for granted. Being able to work, to run in freezing thunderstorms, to live – it all means so much to me. The answer is to live and appreciate life. The answer is to not give a shit what others think. The answer is to be true to yourself. The answer is to not be a douchecanoe. The answer is 42.

And blackberries. The time is now for blackberries, so let’s get on that.

fresh blackberries, water, red wine vinegar, salt, sugar, ginger, shallot, fresh bay leaf, sprig of thyme, peppercorns, whole allspice, and juniper berries

I had never heard of pickled blackberries until my friend Debra posted about them on Facebook one day. It immediately appealed to me because I love blackberries and I love pickled things. Organic blackberries cost a pretty penny where I live, so it was a leap of pickled faith that these would be worth the investment.

crush the spices

place the spices and aromatics in a saucepan

add sugar and salt

pour in the vinegar and water

The preparation is fast and easy. The wait is a little bit of torture. Make the pickling brine, strain it of all solids, and then let it cool completely. If you add it to the blackberries when the liquid is still hot, you’ll cook the berries. Don’t do that, okay?

the brine

straining the brine

place blackberries in a large jar

add the cooled pickling liquid

It’s a three step process: 1) make the brine 2) pickle the berries and 3) eat the berries. Step 2 needs a minimum of a week, but two weeks is recommended. I found the punch of the vinegar to mellow with time. But don’t expect fresh fruity berries when you pop one in your mouth. I think this is precisely what Jeremy was expecting and it surprised him in an unpleasant way. Then again, he isn’t a pickle fiend like I am. On their own, they are tart and pickly. However, served with an assortment of salumi and charcuterie, these pickled blackberries are really lovely as they complement the fat and salt of the cured meats. So if you’re looking for something different to do with blackberries and you like pickles, try these pickled blackberries.

after two weeks of pickling

great for party nibbles

Pickled Blackberries
[print recipe]
from Smith Bites

8 black peppercorns
3 allspice berries
2 juniper berries
1/2-inch piece of fresh ginger, thinly sliced
1 small fresh bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 shallot, quartered lengthwise
6 tbsps sugar
3 tbsps kosher salt
2 cups red wine vinegar
2 cups water
18 oz. fresh blackberries (about 4 cups), washed and shaken of excess water

Roughly crush the peppercorns, allspice, and juniper berries together with a mortar and pestle or however you like to crush hard round spices. Place the crushed spices, ginger, bay leaf, sprig of thyme, shallot, sugar, kosher salt, red wine vinegar, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring the brine to a boil, stirring to dissolve the salt and sugar. Remove the saucepan from the heat and strain the liquid. Let the liquid cool completely or you’ll cook your berries. Discard the spices and aromatics. Place the berries in a 2-quart jar. Pour the cooled pickling liquid over the berries. Cover the jar tightly and refrigerate for at least a week before serving, but 2 or more weeks is preferred. Keeps for up to 3 months refrigerated. Makes 4 cups of pickled blackberries. Reserve brine for cocktails.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

blackberry curd cheesecake in a jar blackberry ice cream blackberry lemon elderflower cake blackberry peach coffee cake

28 nibbles at “the answer is 42”

  1. Kristin says:

    Happiest of birthdays, dear Jen, and many more. Thank you for sharing your zest for life. Your attitude is enthusiastic & eye-opening, as are your stories, photos & recipes. xo

  2. Sil says:

    Dear Jen, feliz cumpleaños!!

    You have no idea how moving your post is for me! As always, thank you for sharing with us your heart and… you’re awesome!



  3. Cindi says:

    You are such an inspiration – in every way. Thank you for reminding me how precious life is. xo

  4. Theresa says:

    First, happy birthday!

    Second, I feel so much better that you’re posting a blackberry recipe because I have one left to post, but for some reason I was thinking it was waaaay out of season now.

    Third, your photos are stunning (as usual). It’s a little bittersweet looking at them this time though, knowing I was just there a few weeks ago but couldn’t take any photos myself thanks to the 100 year flood. I think it’s going to take me a few years to get over that disappointment!

  5. Lisa says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDY, dear. I am the one appreciates your birthdays the most. Your post reflects your attitude towards life. We all have lots to learn from you for that. Enjoy your birthday and wish you many many more to come.

  6. Erin Fletcher says:

    Happy birthday, Jenjen! miss you much!

  7. Jackie says:

    beautifully said, and 100% agreed with the sentiment of being grateful for every moment, even if i am lacking in the gravity of your experience. i lost my brother to slow awful sickness and my father all of a sudden in an accident, and both have given me a similar appreciation of every new day and every bit of normal. happy birthday to one of my favorite internet peeps. i hope you have many many many more normal days to be happy in.

  8. ARC says:

    I am still learning to love cooking daily for my family. (It was a fun weekend activity pre-kids but now it just seems like work.) Your blog gives me hope, though, since it makes me *want* to try interesting new stuff.

    Happy Birthday from someone who usually lurks :) And I love your philosophy.

  9. Abbe@This is How I Cook says:

    Happy Birthday Jen! I am SO glad that someone has all the answers. And they are right!

  10. Rose says:

    Normally, I would not have stopped to read a recipe on how to pickle blackberries, but the title caught my attention. “The Answer is 42.” The answer to what, I thought? The number of blackberries needed for the recipe? After reading your post, I realize that you are wise beyond your 42 years. How many of us really appreciate life and have learned not to give a “bleep” about what others think. How many of us are true to ourselves instead of being merely a reflection of what we think the world wants us to be.

    Your blog is wonderful. Your recipes are wonderful. Your mise en place is inspiring. But for me, the most wonderful thing about your blog is how you talk about your family, your husband, your dog, but most especially, your dad.

    Happy, happy birthday and here’s to at least 42 more!

  11. Tanya says:

    Happy Birthday, Jen! I love your blog and your recipes and always enjoy looking at your photos, especially the autumn ones!

  12. Melissa says:

    That whole paragraph is just… I adore you. The answer is 42. ;) Live life full on! You were one of my first best examples of that, ever. Still are.

    Happy happy birthday dear Jen!

  13. Kumar's Kitchen says:

    lovely berrilicious pickle…we are loving it :-)

  14. Nan says:

    Happy B-Day Jen! May you have many, many more and reach 84! (ta da)

  15. Pey-Lih says:

    What a great month to have your birthday! You’ve come a long way since your treatments, so yes, 42 is a wonderful number. Enjoy your day celebrating with the furry kiddo and the hubster buster.

  16. Veronica says:

    Love your blog. Happy birthday and many many more happy healthy years !

  17. Louise says:

    Awesome photos, Happy Birthday, and keep that fantastic spirit!!

  18. Nadia says:

    Happy Birthday Jen! Many more happy years to come for you and your family!
    Thank you for having this blog and for allowing us to be part of your every day adventures!
    Dream to be able to go porcini picking with you one day :)

  19. Liz says:

    Jen – I have been a long time reader of your blog and keep coming back for more inspiration and recipes. I have used many of them at home and now, well, I am going to steal one more thing…. “douchecanoe.” Hilarious. Can’t wait to bring that one back to the friends! XOXO!

  20. jill says:

    What a scary run! Glad you are safe. TPH attended several emergency wilderness medicine conferences over the years. Lightening safety was always in it. I’m sure you know all the right things to do. You know I don’t mean to be a douchecanoe! Hahahahah.
    Those blueberries look heavenly. I’m salivating just thinking of them pickling.
    you amaze me. happy 42!

  21. laning says:

    Happy Birthday Jen… Many many happy returns !!

  22. swan says:

    happy belated jen! this time i didn’t even look at the recipe; i was in it for the photos. i know i’ve said it before, so here it is again: YOU ROCK.

  23. Links: Plums, Gingersnap Granola, and a Winner | Food in Jars says:

    […] Pickled blackberries? Oh yes. […]

  24. Susanne says:

    Your use of the word “douchcanoe” made me indescribably happy.

    Happy Belated Birthday! You are total awesomeness, girl.

  25. jenyu says:

    Kristin – thank you, my dear!

    Sil – *hugs* xo

    Cindi – thank you, friend xo

    Theresa – I think the season goes well into September, so you’re good! Bummer about the visit. Mother Nature is never predictable :(

    Lisa – thanks Mom, I love you!!

    Erin – miss you too!! xoxo

    Jackie – thank you and a big hug to you.

    ARC – :) xo

    Abbe – thanks!

    Rose – to be honest, I don’t have all of the answers, but I try to pay attention :) xo

    Tanya – thank you!

    Melissa – love you, Mel!

    Kumar’s Kitchen – wonderful!

    Nan – very sweet of you, thank you!

    Pey-Lih – :)

    Veronica – thanks!

    Louise – thank you!

    Nadia – thank you xo

    Liz – I got that from my good friend, Kathya! My favorite word!

    jill – yes, lightning is VERY scary. Glad to be here :)

    laning – thank you!

    swan – xxoo

    Susanne – ha ha xo

  26. RECIPE: Pickled Blackberries says:

    […] blackberry syrup. While looking for other ways to use up my precious berries, I came across this recipe for Pickled Blackberries. Now, I know what you are thinking- pickled blackberries?? Weird! Gross! […]

  27. Pickled Blackberries | Evermine Blog says:

    […] blackberry syrup. While looking for other ways to use up my precious berries, I came across this recipe for Pickled Blackberries. Now, I know what you are thinking- pickled blackberries?? Weird! Gross! […]

  28. Links: Plums, Gingersnap Granola, and a Winner - Food in Jars says:

    […] Pickled blackberries? Oh yes. […]

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