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Blackberry Heaven

Okay, I concede. As much as I adore strawberries and blueberries, there is something quite special about blackberries — as long as you strain out the seeds. One of the best things about our house in the country is the old blackberry bush in the side yard. The berries are ready for picking near the end of July, and rather than make a pie or cobbler as some might, I opt for putting up a quantity of sweet, rich coulis. This luscious sauce can then be portioned and frozen for use all year round to drizzle over vegan ice cream or pancakes, or thickened slightly to use as a divine topping for a vegan cheesecake.

You know a berry is ripe if it pulls off the vine with little effort, and many of ours pulled off effortlessly this week. We picked our first harvest just two days ago, bringing in about six quarts, from which I extracted five cups of rich, gorgeous sauce.

After washing the berries, I place them, a batch at a time, into the top of a steamer pan fitted over a saucepan. First, I use a potato ricer to mash down the berries, allowing the liquid to squeeze into the saucepan. I continue to mix and mush the purple mess back and forth with a rubber spatula to squeeze as much juice through the holes as possible. After about five minutes, I discard the pulp and seeds. I add about 3/4 cup of sugar and a few drops of lemon juice and bring it to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Then I turn it off. At this stage, I pour the blackberry coulis through a fine-mesh sieve, which catches the finer bits of seeds.

And that’s all there is to it. I portion the sweetened juice in little containers and freeze them, so I can take them out one at a time as I need them. Last year’s harvest made enough to last all year. I think we have even more this year, and that’s with sharing the berries with the squirrels, birds, deer, and ducks.

Roman Bars

For a different kind of berry experience this week, we were treated to a truly no-fuss dessert: as in “rip open the wrapper” no-fuss. I usually don’t serve dessert unless we have company, but when a box of Roman Bars (named for Roman Starno who developed them) arrived earlier that day, a dessert seemed destined.

Sometimes certain product samples come my way that make my husband Jon smile. Such was the case with these vegan chocolate-dipped fruit bars. (Think Fig Newtons dipped in chocolate, only the filling is blueberry or raspberry instead of figs). Since Jon is a chocoholic, these bars had him at “chocolate” but when he found out about the blueberry and raspberry fillings, he was impressed that he could actually feel virtuous eating chocolate, since he would also be eating some fruit along with it. The fruit filling does cut down on the guilt-factor one can get from eating a regular chocolate bar, and the berry flavors match well with the chocolate. I’ll bet they’d be good dipped in some blackberry coulis.