Blackberry Doobie and Lemon Ginger Ice Cream

6 years ago
Blackberries by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Spring comes early in Georgia, and like the best dinner guest, knows
when to leave. We can spend Easter afternoon in flip-flops and shorts
and Mother’s Day poolside, but every now and then we get a taste of what
the old-timers call blackberry winter, a cold snap just as the wild
blackberries come into fruit. Blackberry winter is in contrast to Indian
summer, the warmish spell in autumn. The chilly temps are said to
sweeten the ripening berries.
Evening temperatures usually hover in the 50s in late April, rising to
the 60s in May, just enough chill in the air to make you grab a sweater
before leaving for work in the morning. Every now and then the white
witch of winter will sweep her frosty gaze across the land in May, and
we scurry to locate sweatshirts and long pants and only recently
forgotten socks. In addition to the wardrobe change, blackberry winter
can put a hurting on tender annuals and other blooming glories of
spring, like azaleas and rhododendrons, turning their vibrant blooms to
brown mush.
Blackberry winter visited us last week, two nights of temps in the upper
30s, which meant making a place inside for the herb seedlings I’d left
in pots on the porch. Down went a bathmat by the front door, and I
placed upon it pots of chives, basil (both sweet and purple ruffle),
Italian parsley, rosemary and thyme. (I will consider myself a true
gardening success if I can get the thyme and rosemary to grow – both
plants can put up with the suffocating heat of July and August in north
Georgia, but I need to get them through a frosty May first.)
Blackberry, the plant, and I are old friends. I don’t have the barefoot
memories of picking berries as a youngster, but since we cleared the
land for our house, I know a lot about the thorny menace. We pull on our
long pants and long sleeves and gingerly approach the fearsome plants,
more afraid of the chiggers, (some call them red bugs), than the
skin-piercing thorns. My granddaddy used to dust his ankles with stinky
sulfur powder to keep the chiggers away when he went hiking. On our
scrubby, woodsy acres, we’ve pursued the wild blackberries, pulling them
up by the roots, until they’re nearly gone. To be honest, I don’t miss
the tiny, seedy berries, and I certainly don’t miss the thorns and chiggers. I do, however, like to pick a couple pints of fat blackberries
from the market and make Bellwether’s blackberry doobie, an
old-fashioned stewed fruit dessert with buttery dumplings that soak up
the sweet, tart berry juice. I serve this bubbling fruit stew with
frosty lemon ginger ice cream – a month of weather extremes reflected in
an old-fashioned dessert.

Bellwether's Blackberry Doobie with Lemon Ginger Ice Cream by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

Bellwether’s Blackberry Doobie
Bellwether Vance is a wonderful, witty writer and cook on the Florida Gulf Coast. Her stories appear on Open Salon
every couple of weeks and I look forward to her posts as much as I do
my children's artwork (that is to say, very, very much - they are
treasures). This is her Blackberry Doobie recipe taught to her by her

For the blackberry broth:

2 (12 oz.) packages fresh blackberries
Water to cover
½ cup of sugar (or more, depending on the sweetness of the blackberries)
Juice of ½ lemon
1. Place the berries in a medium saucepan and add enough water to cover
the blackberries. Stir in the other ingredients. Simmer over medium heat
for fifteen minutes - tasting and adjusting the sweetness and acidity
along the way. Set aside to steep and cool slightly, about 15 minutes.
Strain using a fine-mesh strainer, and return the strained juice to the
saucepan. Heat to a low boil.
For the dumplings:

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cold butter, cut into small cubes
½ cup buttermilk (whole, if you can find it)
1. Combine the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter with your fingers
until it resembles coarse meal. Add the buttermilk, kneading it into a
ball. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press out to
¼-inch thickness. Using a knife, cut into strips that measure about 1 ½
inches wide and 2 ½ inches long.
2. Drop the dumplings, one at a time, into the bubbling broth. Once all
the dumplings are in, lower the heat slightly and let it simmer at a
slow bubble for 10-12 minutes, stirring gently every few minutes. Remove
from the heat and let it sit for at least 20 minutes to cool and
thicken. Serve warm with a scoop of lemon-ginger ice cream.

Lemon-Ginger Ice Cream

3 lemons, zested and juiced
2/3 cup sugar
4 cups half-and-half, divided
5 egg yolks, whites saved for another purpose (angel food cake!)
Pinch of salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 2-inch slices crystallized ginger, finely diced, divided

1. In a saucepan over medium heat, heat 1 cup of half-and-half, the sugar, the lemon zest
and ½ of the chopped, crystallized ginger. Stir with a whisk until
sugar is dissolved and let it come to a boil. Remove from heat and let
cool for at least15 minutes.2. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until thick and lemony in color. Slowly add the half-and-half
mixture, whisking constantly. Pour the mixture into the saucepan and
cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture coats a
spoon. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve into a large bowl.3. Add ½ cup of lemon juice, the vanilla, and the remaining chopped,
crystallized ginger to the strained custard, whisking until combined.
Add 3 cups half-and-half, whisking again. Pour mixture into ice cream maker and freeze according to manufacturer’s directions. Store in airtight container in freezer.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

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