"O, blackberry tart, with berries as big as your thumb, purple and black, and thick with juice, and a crust to endear them that will go to cream in your mouth, and both passing down with such a taste that will make you close your eyes and wish you might live forever in the wideness of that rich moment."
~Richard Llewllyn (How Green Was My Valley)
This month I am celebrating my Irish heritage and posting only Irish recipes. This one goes back to my childhood personally, but hundreds of years historically.
Blackberry brambles are one of the most familiar bushes in Ireland. They have been growing in Europe for thousands of years. Their long rambling stems arch over walls and clamber along hedgerows, armed with prickly thorns that take root wherever they touch the ground. Their prevalence allows for thrift, so it is no wonder they are popular in jams, chutney, compote, crumbles, pies and tarts! Very often they are mixed with apples, although I prefer them on their own. These little tarts left a taste imprint I've never forgotten. Simple and wholesome. I also make very pretty refined tarts with a cheesecake-like filling and perfect glazed berries standing like soldiers around the edge. They make a pretty picture, but it is these humble free-form tarts of my childhood that I crave.
My grandmother Murphy had a nice grove of blackberry bushes where we would pick on an August day. They were so prolific, we could fill baskets in no time. She warned me that we need to sing while we pick to scare the snakes away!
This was she and I after a strawberry picking outing, but you get the picture. Only women of a certain generation will remember that Dorothy Hammil haircut I'm sporting.
Her blackberry jelly was my favorite. For trips to the beach, she would always pack peanut butter and blackberry jelly sandwiches. They tasted like heaven to me. I have yet to find a source for a good blackberry jelly or jam that tastes like hers. I'll be putting some up this summer.
The tarts I made at home with my mother. Little free-form tarts because the wild berries I would pick in the neighborhood would only yield one or two cups at a time. Never enough for a whole pie, but you could get a couple delicious tarts out of them. You can use little tart shells or ramekins, but I prefer the free form shallow tart shell. You could also double the recipe and make a straight-up, two-crust blackberry pie, or double the filling only and make a one-crust blackberry pie. For an additional twist, add crumble topping to it! If you make the free form little tarts, don't get hung up on the looks, they just need to stand up enough on the sides to hold the filling in.
Be sure to leave a comment and receive an entry in the drawing for the lovely cookbook, The Country Cooking of IRELAND!
See previous post (Easy Irish Soda Bread) for details.
Rustic Blackberry Tarts
2 1/2 cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour.
1 tablespoon butter, divided
2 tablespoons blackberry or raspberry jam, heated until it melts
2 cups flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup cold Crisco
6 tablespoons ice water
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
In a medium bowl, toss blackberries with sugar and flour. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar and salt. Add Crisco, and with a pastry blender or two knives, cut in Crisco until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle on ice water, one tablespoon at a time while tossing mixture up from the bottom with a fork. With your hands, gather the dough to form a ball. Place on a lightly floured cutting board and press into a square about 5x5 inches. Sprinkle with flour, then roll into 14x14 (approx) square. Cut down the middle horizontally and vertically to create 4 squares of dough. Place a square on a cookie sheet. Using a half cup measure, scoop a slightly heaping measure of berries, scooping down to the bottom of the bowl to make sure you get enough sugar and flour. Carefully mound in the center of dough square. Bring together two corners (as if to fold a sheet) and pinch from the fold (resting on the cookie sheet) halfway up, folding over and pinching again, so it holds. Let the little point flop over informally. Repeat for the remaining three corners.
Dot tarts with butter. Bake for 30-40 minutes until filling is bubbling. If crust starts to brown too quickly, lay a piece of aluminum foil lightly over the tarts. When they're done, brush with melted jam. Serve warm with whipped cream, clotted cream or vanilla ice cream!