Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blackberry Mojito Sorbet

A few years ago, C. and I planted gardens in the front and back of our house. Though both gardens have gone through various plantings, the front border garden currently is all flowers and bushes: roses, azaleas, hydrangeas, stargazers, and ivy. (We've also had moonflowers and a gardenia bush.) The back garden, however, has included fruits, vegetables and herbs. This year only the strawberries, rosemary, English and Spanish lavender, thyme, and several types of mint have come up. But we also had a surprise with two blackberry bushes C. planted. Originally he'd put blackberry, blueberry and cranberry plants in the ground, but the latter two died off, while the blackberries didn't bear any fruit last year. This year, however, both the thorned and thornless plans, both of which are huge and still growing, began to show fruit about a month ago, and slowly but surely, the berries have come in. I finally harvest a few last week, and then again some more today, which are visible below.

The bowl of fresh blackberries

One of our cats, Patsy, inspecting them

There aren't enough for a pie, so I decided to use them in a sorbet, but there weren't enough for a straight blackberry sorbet, so I experimented with another recipe I found online, and here it is.

Blackberry Mojito Sorbet (heavily adapted from San Franciscan Erik Ellestad's Mojito Sorbet on What's Cooking America)

1 3/4 cups of sugar (you can use a little less or up to two cups)
4 cups water
5 sprigs of mint
1/2 cup of fresh or frozen blackberries
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed lime juice
1/8 cup of rum (I like dark Dominican or Haitian rum, but you can use vodka or light rum too)
zest of two limes
2 tablespoons of mint chiffonade (a garnish)

In a large uncovered saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture becomes a syrup. Add the mint sprigs, and stir until the sugar begins to boil (you can cover to speed this up, but do not keep it covered). Then reduce heat to a simmer, add the washed blackberries, and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir intermittently. Remove from the heat, and let stand for about 10 minutes.

Remove the mint sprig completely. Take 3/4ths of the mixture, including all of the blackberries, and place in a blender. Blend until the the berries are liquefied. Then strain the blended mixture into a chillable bowl, combining it with the remaining berry-less 1/4th, to remove all the seeds. Gently use a wooden spoon to press all of the liquid into to the bowl. Add the lime juice, rum and lime zest to the bowl, and stir to combine. Then chill for at least 1 1/2 hours.

NOTE: In the original mojito sorbet recipe (which I've made and which is delicious!), the author adds that the liquor is the secret to a soft sorbet. Since alcohol doesn't freeze, adding a little keeps the sorbet from becoming too hard. Vodka has no taste, and dark, high-quality rums add only a subtle flavoring. You can forgo it completely if you intend to serve to this to children.

If you have an ice cream maker, place the chilled mixture in your ice cream maker's frozen metal churning bowl, put in the mixer, and then let it turn for about 25 minutes. You can check it to see if it's freezing properly. If the mixture isn't chilled enough, you can place it in the freezer or a cold refrigeration, and then try it again. Transfer the completed sorbet to a sealed container in the freezer.

If you don't have an ice cream maker, chill a stainless steel or pyrex pan in your freezer. The sorbet mixture shouldn't come up more than inch along the side of the steel pan. Add mixture to pan, and stir with a metal fork or spoon every hour until it's well frozen. After it has frozen, place in batches in a blender or food processor ("whip" lightly for a few seconds) to get the correct sorbet consistency, stir in mint chiffonade, and then store in a sealed container in the freezer.

When it's done and you're going to serve it, garnish with an uncooked sprig of mint or the mint chiffonade. You can also add a dash of rum, just as you would with the plain mojito sorbet.

The finished blackberry mojito sorbet (in freezer bowl)--it's delicious!

In honor of the blackberry picking, which you really have to do with a pair of gloves if you have the thorned bushes (and they are sharp!), here's a famous poem by Seamus Heaney, from his early volume, Death of a Naturalist.


Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard's.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn't fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they'd keep, knew they would not.
Copyright © Seamus Heaney, 2006.

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