Blackberry Days

blackberryOne of the delicacies of the American South is blackberries. The season is a short one, only a few weeks from April to mid May*and then it is over.  Speaking as someone who used to go black-berrying, there is no activity on earth so staining to the mouth and fingers, so leg scratching, or ultimately, so satisfying.

My personally favorite recipe is Blackberry Cobbler.  You need about four cups of blackberries 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, ½ teaspoon baking powder, a pinch of sea salt, ¾ cup flour, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, and 6 tablespoons of butter.  After that it’s easy. You cream the butter salt and baking powder together in a mixer, add the flower and when you have a fluffy consistency, drop on top of the blackberries rolled in the sugar and cornstarch in a pyrex dish. You need a 400 oven for a half hour and voila! This makes an excellent cobbler, not too sweet that goes very nicely with ice cream.

Outside of blackberry season you can make cobbler, but you have to use expensive imported berries, or mushy frozen ones, and somehow, the result is never quite as good. My own way of meeting a craving for berries outside the season, is to wear some in perfume form. My go to choices right now, come from two vials I have carefully kept aside from the general population of samples: Hanae Mori on the one hand, and Jo Malone Blackberry and Bay on the other.

They’re both very good in different ways. The Jo Malone produces a rather natural brambly scent.  You might call it the scent of the black berrying in progress.  There is the distinctly green smell of the hedges, the tart, slightly sulfuric smell of the berries themselves, and the result is a perfume which does recall the sprawling brambly habitat of the blackberry. It reminds me of every abortive attempt I have ever made at foraging- and I have made several,  including a couple of mistaken mushrooming expeditions in Italy. Let us just say that I am not an expert forager, so it is best for me to stick to something simple- like berries.

The Hanae Mori, on the other hand, conjures up the finished cobbler with a generous dollop of vanilla ice cream melting down its sides.  It is an unctuous perfume, that mystifyingly, seems at its best in late spring or early summer.  H.M. even smells good at 100 degrees fahrenheit, and it is the only vanilla fragrance of which I have found this to be true.  Normally I would not go near vanilla then, but HM is different.

The two takes on black berry perfumes remind me of that cracking good read, Le Cru et Le Cuit by Levi-Strauss. Blackberries raw, and blackberries cooked, only there is no thinking involved here as with the book, no analysis, nothing difficult at all in this enjoyment of the raw and the cooked, simply pleasure unexpurgated and unabridged.

* My reference here seasonally was New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. Here in New Jersey the season is July onwards.

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20 thoughts on “Blackberry Days

  1. I love Blackberries too, but here in the UK they only ripen in mid-to-late August or more usually, early September. I’m amazed that you get them so early in your part of the world.

    Never tried a Blackberry-centric perfume though.

    • Wow, that is late, even by Jersey standards. I was thinking about New Orleans(and so annotated my post) but for us, blackberry season is late summer. When you get really far down South in the US, nothing thrives much in July and August apart from the tropical stuff and kudzu. Gardeners live for spring and autumn because that’s when they can see some results!

      • Oh, and like a twit, I quite forgot to say that the Jo Malone is probably quite wearable by men. It’s not very sweet. Another blackberry scent, though not a soli-berry (?) is L’Eau Mixte a de Nicolai which was made to be unisex.

  2. Numerous black berry bushes grow wild here on the farm, usually in fencerows. The CEO, whose favorite berry they are, insists that what we have are blackberries, but I’m not convinced – judging by the shape, I think they’re black raspberries. Whatever they are, they are delicious. They tend to ripen here at the tail end of July and into early August, and you can only pick them in any comfort if you do it early in the morning, and you have to share the bushes with bees, hornets, yellow jackets, wasps, and the enormous yellow spiders that weave zigzag webs in the bushes to catch these insects.

    I am very fond of Hanae Mori myself, and Blackberry and Bay is quite nice. B&B fades too soon for my taste into a restrained woody thing, but it is very comfortable and attractive, and yes, I think it would be great on a guy. A few other blackberryish things I like – Hanae Mori’s close cousin Bath & Body Works Dark Kiss (which is more floral and more decadently rich, IMO), Ferre 20, which has a nice berry cast to its aldehydic floral-musk, and Soivohle’s lush Rosa sur Reuse (berry, rose, tuberose, labdanum, wow).

    • An uncomfortably evocative description of the spiders et al you have to brave while blackberrying in your part of the world.
      Where I grew up, it was always copperheads you had to worry about because they made nests in overgrown spots. Standard procedure was to whack the ground vigorously with a walking stick before proceeding, while wearing high boots. Ugh. However the berries were wonderful.

      I really must try some Soivohles. Never come across any myself. Ferre I know but not Ferre 20. Darn it.

  3. Two years ago in July, I invited a wonderful artist from Philadelphia to do a solo show at the Library. His girlfriend, a gardener-groundskeeper by profession, went blackberrying down by the river while he hung his exhibit; she brought back such a pile of lovely juicy berries that there was enough to share with my whole department. A wonderful memory, reawakened by your wonderful post.

  4. Hallo,
    first time commenting here, but the love for blackberries is my vice, too.
    My personal favorite is Mure et Musc Extreme – L’Artisan Parfumeur, but I haven’t tried Blackberry & Bay yet and considering I am fond of the more natural side of these fruits, I think I’ll like it at once! In terms of Hanae Mori – do you mean edp, edt or the pure perfume? I have a sample of edp and just put it on my wrist to remember what it’s all about. I do not see it as a blackberry perfume, but a fine gourmand blend of berries, burnt sugar and whipped cream. Somehow it reminds me of Casmir – Chopard. Do you know the pure perfume? A friend of mine ordered it from a US online shop and it’s incredible – creamier than edp, with less sugar and more woody feeling. And of course, skin close scent.

    • Hi Lyubov, thanks for stopping by!
      Of the Hanae Moris my sample is edt. Sort of too bad since the perfume is probably richer and fuller. To me the HM is cooked berries with vanilla, and I do catch blackberry in there but ymmv.

      Mure et Musc Extreme is getting to be a classic, and at first I thought the Jo Malone was merely a do over of it, but actually now I’d call Blackberry & Bay drier and woodier than the L’Artisan scent.

      And yes, I do know Casmir! So glad someone mentioned it, because it’s a fascinating perfume and seldom gets much attention. When I encountered Casmir, the strength was edt probably. It was new, and I thought one of the oddest perfumes I’d ever smelled. Called an oriental gourmand at the time.

      Have you tried Caron’s L’Accord 119? As a blackberry lover you may find this one right up your alley (only edp and parfum).

      • Oh, it is so difficult with the Carons around here in Bulgaria.
        But I actually didn’t hear of L’Accord 119. Chypre-fruity, relatively new Caron? Should try it next time I visit Paris…

        • And what I wrote about pure perfume – it was about Hanae Mori pp, not Casmir. My Casmir is edp and I find it the most mouthwatering apricot jam ever!

          • It is kind of an apricot smell now that you mention it. You also jogged my memory regarding an old de Nicolai called Eau Exotique, which as I recall it was even more down the apricot trail than Casmir, with a good deal of cashmeran in it.

        • Yes, L’Accord 119 is a relatively recent Caron. 2011 was the release and I didn’t see it on their website the last time I looked but I know Luckyscent carries it in the States and Les Senteurs in England. Don’t know if they send things internationally. Hope so. But a trip to Paris is not that bad!

  5. Count me as another big fan of blackberries! I love to go berrying – and usually eat more than I bring home, but there have been a couple occasions when I managed to return with enough to make blackberry cobbler. I like to add a little bit of rose essence to the berries when I make them … really goes beautifully with it.

    So Hanae Mori is the perfume equivalent of blackberry cobbler and ice cream? Mmm, must make it a point to sample sometime.

    • The rose essence sounds really delicious. I do a similar thing with ground cardamom, powdered sugar, and greek yoghurt over berries in summer, but now will have to try putting rose water in cobbler!
      Hanae Mori was something that I stumbled across. It is very berries and ice creamy to me, and so a good gourmand for summer when you might otherwise run away shrieking from vanillas!

      • Blacknall, since you like to bake I thought I would share this link to a really good rose essence ( for your recipe with Greek yogurt, the rose water you suggested would be your best choice, but in baking, when you need something with a little more oomph, this rose flavour is very good and Amazon has a seller that carries it inexpensively):

        http://tinyurl.com/ac5bf4e

        Btw, cardamom is another favorite, so your recipe for stirring together the Greek Yogurt over berries will definitely be tested this summer. Thanks for sharing it! :)

  6. “Raw” and “cooked” aren’t bad opposites to be associated with perfumes: I would hate to be testing anything that falls into, let’s say, “fresh” – “rotten” pair (please note that both of those would scare me away).

    Blackberry & Bay was such a pleasant surprise last year! I liked it and plan towear it often this summer. As to Hanae Mori, the only one I smelled was one of the Batterfly (I’m not sure if different coloring is just decorative, signifies different concentration or goes for different flankers), didn’t like it so I never felt tempted to try anything else from that brand.

    • Yes, the different colour of the butterflies marks the different concentrations! Blue – edp, Pink – edt, Orange – pp, Yellow – eau fraiche. Pitty they are not marked as different perfumes in all data base sites because they do differ.

    • Mals I know, loves the Hanae Mori, and I thought it was pretty but decidedly gourmand. I mean those berries are cooked, and that is really vanilla, almost French, vanilla ice cream in that perfume.

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