Back in my younger days blackberrying was a fun activity and somewhat competitive, in who could find the ripest and who could pick the most within a restricted timeframe.
The opportunity to gather the tasty wild berries seemed endless with ample growing around the south.
Many of the popular picking areas of those days have disappeared as the urban sprawl has conquered all and our parks and reserves have been cleared for more friendly recreational fun (less ripping of the skin).
Our grandparents' small (by today's standards) dairy farm at Otatara sported several areas of native bush where wild blackberries were abundant, as was the mercurochrome and Elastoplast. I never learnt to ensure long pants and sleeves were a must. Grandma's regulars were jam, jelly and a great apple and blackberry crumble.
Maybe it's a bit of maturity, maybe it's the keenness to keep my skin attached in one piece, but these days it seems far more convenient to simply pick up a pack of frozen blackberries during the grocery shopping trip.
The commercially grown blackberries are somewhat larger than in the wild, but have retained the distinctive flavour. They also allow you to enjoy them more frequently, rather than during the short season of the past. As a good example, I recently made our household yearly needs of blackberry jam. This was well after the 2013 blackberry season.
While enjoying a few (while still frozen) berries, I was reminded of how well they would pair with our world-renowned, farm-raised venison. This encouraged me to serve a blackberry sauce with our locally produced venison to a group of visiting distributors from Germany recently.
Germany is now our largest importer of Southland-raised venison and is well recognised as a high-end product being offered both in retail and many of Germany's top restaurants.
Let's show some support to our world leading venison producers and enjoy the mild flavour of the very lean succulent product, with an easy to make blackberry sauce.
VENISON STEAKS WITH BLACKBERRY SAUCE
For 4 people
250g frozen blackberries
200ml red wine
250ml venison (or chicken stock)
1 generous Tbsp honey
30g butter, cubed but kept in the chiller until required
4 150g venison steaks
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
In a heavy-based pot place the wine, stock and three-quarters of the blackberries and bring to the boil.
Once boiling reduce the heat to a simmer and allow to cook for 10 minutes or until the berries are soft.
Place the mixture into a kitchen whiz and process until well combined. Now pass the mixture through a sieve back into the pot, throwing away the seeds.
Bring the liquid in the pot back to simmering point, adding the honey, and continue to simmer until it has reduced by half to a nice smooth sauce.
Add the remaining blackberries and season with the freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste.
When you are about to serve the sauce add the butter cubes and swirl until the sauce becomes nice and glossy.
Brush both sides of the steaks with olive oil and season with freshly ground sea salt and vinegar.
Heat a heavy based pan and when hot place the venison steaks into the pan, allowing to cook for a minute and a half on each side.
Remove, cover with a paper towel and allow to rest for 4 minutes.
Place the steaks on a plate adding the sauce and serve alongside your favourite fresh vegetables.
Graham Hawkes operates Paddington Arms at the Queens Dr/ Bainfield Rd roundabout.
- The Southland Times