My aim was to make a good, savory blackberry sauce. One that would creatively accompany a main course like grilled fish or meat. I tell you, it’s been a windy road to get there.
I think it comes down to the color.
Blackberries are, well, black. Very, very dark. For dessert, this is not a problem — a dark purple sorbet or pie filling that’s inky blackish purple come off as fun, like a whimsical finish to the meal. But when you’re aiming for a savory sauce, such dramatic dark purple poses a challenge.
First I tried a blackberry beurre blanc for a salmon filet I’d bought. I’ve adored beurre blanc since I went to cooking school, where I was first introduced to its buttery goodness. A perfect accompaniment to poached fish, if I remember the lesson correctly.
Beurre blanc is a rich, delicate sauce that requires a good amount of attention to keep the heat just warm enough, and the butter cold enough, so that the emulsion doesn’t break into an oily mess. I thought that adding blackberries would add a seasonal punch of summer, an interesting twist to a traditional sauce.
The flavor came through wonderfully. Packed with intense berry flavor, and enough tartness from the vinegar to balance with all the rich butter. When I closed my eyes and tasted, all was good.
But when I looked down at the plate to see the shocking dark purple sauce next to my pale spring salmon — white spring, no less — I was a little horrified.
I turned next to a richer sauce, one to pair with grilled pork tenderloin. Pork lends itself well to fruit sauces, so one with blackberries seemed promising. I just winged it — sautéed shallots, blackberries, dash of wine and balsamic vinegar, some chicken stock, and a little butter to give it a velvety richness. Sounds reasonable, right?
Well, the flavor was pretty decent with the berry flavor coming through very well. (Blackberries are definitely not shy about flavor.) It was a good complement to the pork. Perhaps not as good a pairing as duck or venison, but unquestionably better than the beurre blanc with salmon.
Again, it was the color. Such a dark purple. When I accidentally tilted my plate and saw the sauce sliding towards my white potatoes, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t help but think I should have saved this recipe for a dark, rainy winter night when it’s blowing a gale outside. (Even better: a night when the power is out, eating by dim candlelight.)
After racking my brain for a few days on how to make a savory blackberry sauce work, despite its intense color, it suddenly dawned on me. Aha! I bet blackberries would make a great relish.
I thought of the cranberry-pear relish recipe from Fields of Greens that I make at Christmas. I also thought of Branston pickle which I enjoy very much, especially with a slice of cheddar cheese. Both the cranberry relish and Branston pickle are sweet and tart, and intensely flavored. And their colors — vibrant red for the cranberry relish, blackish brown for the pickle — hasn’t seemed to keep us from serving them again and again.
I grilled up some chicken breasts on the bone. With some salad greens and a few spoonfuls of blackberry apple relish at the side of my plate, it was a delightfully colorful summertime dinner. This time, I was disappointed that I was cooking for one. Luckily the relish keeps well. I’ll be sharing it with Bob very soon.
Inspired by a gorgeous photo from The 10 Cent Designer, and a cranberry-pear relish recipe from Fields of Greens that I make when we do roast turkey. There's a pleasant heat from the ginger and jalapeño, and the lime adds a little zing to offset the sweet blackberries. This was delicious with roasted chicken breast. It would go fabulously well with cheddar cheese and bread as part of a ploughman's lunch, instead of Branston pickle.
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon jalapeño pepper, minced
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup tart apple, peeled and chopped (I used a Pink Lady variety, but a Granny Smith or other crisp, tart variety would work just as well.)
- zest of 1 lime, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
- salt and pepper
- Place the blackberries, sugar, red onion, ginger, jalapeño and vinegar in s small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the apple and cook for 1-2 more minutes, just until the apple is slightly soft.
- Remove from heat and stir in the lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool before serving.