Fresh blackberries are a baker's delight—succulent pies spring readily to mind. They are an extremely healthful fruit, loaded with anthocyanins, which are flavonoid pigments known to fight cancer-causing free radicals. Another virtue is that a mere cup equals about 62 calories.
Select Fully Ripened Berries
Blackberries will not ripen after you pick them, so choose fully black, plump blackberries for the best flavor and baking results. The berry easily comes loose from the hull when it is ripe. Avoid berries from stained containers, as this indicates they are too ripe.
Handle Quickly and With Care
If you are hand-picking blackberries, do not expose them to extended sunlight and get them somewhere cool as soon as possible. Blackberries can become moldy at room temperature and last only up to a week even when refrigerated. Do not wash or hull berries until you're ready to bake. Blackberries will, however, keep for many months if you gently rinse them in cold water, cut off the hulls and freeze the berries in an airtight bag. Measure them by the cup and label before freezing. There is no need to thaw them before baking. The best time to buy blackberries in grocery stores is August, because crops peak in June in the South and in July in the North.
Simple Baking Ideas
A blackberry pie prepared with fresh fruit requires about 4 cups of berries. Before adding a thickener, season the berries lightly with some lemon juice or cinnamon; stir lightly or use your fingers, since ripe berries are fragile. Choose a thickener, such as 2 tablespoons of cornstarch blended with 1/4 cup of water or fruit juice, then add 2/3 to 1 cup of sugar. Let the mixture stand for 15 minutes before gently folding in the fresh berries and filling the crust. Another way to use fresh blackberries is to puree them and substitute them equally in any baking recipe that calls for applesauce. Keep frozen blackberries on hand to make a quick topping for any baked goods or to jazz up freshly baked muffins.