Final Fruits of Summer

12 Sep
Raspberry

Raspberry

The 2009 Berry Season has been a bit tricky this year with a lackluster crop of blueberries, a super late fruition of strawberries and bushes of raspberries and blackberries growing in unusual places.  Due to the inverted weather with all the mild days of summer saved for the beginning of September, I anticipated a delayed maturing of my favorite late-season fruit: the blackberry.

So after seeing some fine-looking raspberries come and go on near the waters of Blue Lake, I struck out, with a troop of like-minded berry hunters, to collect a pailful of blackberries.  I checked in last year’s hotspot but alas, though the plants – a good many of them – were visible, the fruits were naught.  Perhaps I was a week too late… but I didn’t see any evidence of shriveled fruit on the bushes, lost tops or trampled plants, either.  I even ventured deep into bear country to a field once overflowing with raspberry and blackberry bushes.  All I found was a super fresh bear dookie and the sounds of a large creature crashing through the woods close to me.

Dismayed, I left the boundaries of the BLMA for a secret hideaway overlooking some wetlands to reflect on how to get my hands on some sweet berries.  I walked into a dense forest of soft white pines and there, staring me in the eye, were the largest blackberry bushes I’ve ever seen.  The bushes were so tall, they draped over the pine branches, their limbs laden with plump, succulent fruit.  Now, everywhere I turned, blackberries were exploding from the forest, brushing against my hands and falling into my pail.  I gathered as many as I could, leaving a good deal of still-green berries on their stems, promising to revisit this blackberry paradise next week for a second picking.

Wild Blackberries of the Northwoods

Wild Blackberries of the Northwoods

Upon returning home with my haul, I scoured the kitchen for a delicious blackberry recipe.  My Italian granny, on loan from Florida, suggested we make a blackberry cheesecake.  I didn’t need a second invitation and we quickly found a few suitable recipes which we combined into this delectable desert:

BLACKBERRY CHEESECAKE

crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/4 cup finely-chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 5 1/2 tsp butter or margarine

filling:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg white
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla

sauce:

  • 3 cups blackberries
  • 2 tbsp sugar

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix graham cracker crumbs, walnuts and cinnamon in a medium bowl.  Melt butter and stir into mixture with fork until moistened.  Spray 9″ springform pan with nonstick oil.  Press mixture into pan and 2 1/2″ up the sides.  Bake in oven for 3 minutes and then set in freezer for 15 minutes.

Beat filling ingredients together (preferably with electric mixer for ease.)  Pour into crust and bake 35 minutes at 375 degrees.  Chill in refrigerator for at least 4 hours.  (Note:  The temperature of the oven is really important.  Our oven somehow got turned down to 350 degrees and the cheesecake did not cook at all but once we turned it up to 365, it cooked perfectly.  You can tell the cheesecake is done by doing the standard “if the knife comes out clean” test.)

Carefully remove cake from springform pan and transfer to serving plate.  Toss berries with sugar in small bowl and press through sieve.  Spread sauce over cake and garnish with whole berries.

In addition to the tutelage of an Italian granny, if you have a mini-mixer like a Magic Bullet for chopping the graham crackers/nut mixture and for crushing the blackberries, this recipe’s difficulty drops significantly.  The recipe requires a significant block of time from preparation to devouring as the cheesecake has to undergo various stages of chilling but it is well worth it.  Not only was the cheesecake one of the best I’ve ever eaten, but we had plenty of blackberries left over for more blackberry treats.

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One Response to “Final Fruits of Summer”

  1. guitar mama September 15, 2009 at 9:23 pm #

    I must attest to the fact that this cheese cake was the best that I’ve ever eaten! Great job, Daughter Provost and Italian Mommy!

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