One of life’s great pleasures is picking perfectly ripe blackberries, still warm from the sun, and popping them directly into your mouth until you have juice dripping down your elbows. We have recently begun spending time in Oregon where blackberries thrive. Our backyard there was overrun, and I’ve spent hours attacking the vines to get them under control. I am determined to have beautifully trained vines. I know I’m a dreamer, but I also know I can be relentless with a pair of clippers in my hands. And I believe there is hope: still time to get the upper hand before August, when the berries are in their jet-black glory. In the meantime, I feel grateful for having received a gift of frozen, handpicked, wild blackberries from a local Oregonian forager. I’d much rather have frozen berries, picked ripe and sweet, than fresh berries picked under-ripe and sour, which is how you usually find them at the market.
Not wanting to disappoint the forager or me or the berries, I tried to think of ways to show off these gorgeous fruits. “What do you want to be in your next life?” I asked the berries under my breath. Without hesitation they replied, “Blackberry Swirl Ice Cream.” How could I argue? I cooked the berries with just enough sugar and lemon juice to heighten their flavor, pureed them, then swirled them into vanilla ice cream. Because of the swirls each bite is full of contrasts: sweet and tart, creamy and fruity, dark and light. I think the mixture stands alone as a dessert. It needs no cake underneath, no cookie along side. Save some of the blackberry puree to pour over the top. It is great without, but the sauce (magically it becomes a sauce if it’s not swirled in) gives it a little ooh-la-la!
Scroll down to below the recipe to be serenaded by Blossom Dearie singing Give Him That Ooh-La-La! You’ll be glad you did!
Make the vanilla ice cream base. It is important to temper the eggs so that they don’t curdle. The bowl with the yolks is going to want move around while you are whisking in the cream, and you won’t be able to steady it with your other hand. Using a flat bottomed bowl helps, but you can also put a damp towel under your bowl to keep it still.
I like to use these quart containers because they don’t take up too much space in the freezer, and have a nice tight lid. Press plastic wrap directly on top of the ice cream before covering to reduce the possibility of the ice crystals forming.