Know the difference between an average blackberry and a Stehly Organic Farms blackberry? Amazement. Pure eye-rolling amazement. As if Mother Nature herself reached down and handed you a blackberry and said, “Here. This is what a blackberry should be.”
Plump. They have a deep, round sweetness that is counterbalanced perfectly by the classic blackberry tang. But just a subtle tang, not enough to overstay its welcome and overshadow the flavor of the berry.
We were first introduced to Stehly Farms when on assignment for Whole Foods. They are one of the local farms which the southern California Whole Foods carry. The are proud (and rightfully so) of their local farmers and are bringing attention to these amazing people behind the scenes.
In our early morning exploration of their farm, Noel (one of the two brothers owning and operating the farm) drove us about where ever we wanted to see and photograph. You can imagine all the garden geek talk going on in that truck. Not that we like amazing citrus, avocado, or berries. We’re only marginally obsessed after all.
At one point he mentions that he thinks the blackberries may just be starting to ripen.
“Blackberries?”, we perk.
We drove over to the vines and begin to stroll amongst the bees. So many flowers and soon to be fruit. Then we saw it. A hint of black. Then a little more. Finally a cluster with a few fully ripe berries.
We finger limbo-ed through the vines and their thorns and gently plucked the ripe berries. Slightly warmed from the sun, it was a moment of pure bliss as we ate those first blackberries. We continued our search and scavenged up another 20 or so berries to photograph. Although I’m positive everyone was snacking a couple for every one which was put in the shoot basket, nobody mentioned a word of their secret finds. Sneakies.
As Noel was fawning over his berries, he mentioned how they love to make blackberry ice cream from their pickings. “We are going to have to do that” I thought to myself. That sounded heavenly good. Especially now knowing how extraordinary his berries were.
A few weeks later. We stopped in the local Whole Foods to grab some produce for another client’s shoot when we spied the Stehly Farms blackberries. We immediately snatched up several containers and the visions of making blackberry ice cream flooded my head.
We popped open one of the containers on the way home and started snacking on the blackberries. Somehow the container emptied in the 10 minute drive home. And then the next disappeared, and it would have been a waste to make such a small batch of ice cream with the remaining one basket, so we ate it.
No ice cream for us.
The next few weeks were crazy busy preparing for an aikido test and our trip to Boston where we were speaking at the International Conference on Food Styling and Photography. Since we were going to be in Boston for almost a week, we kept grocery shopping to a minimum. So… no ice cream for us.
We got home from Boston this past Tuesday. Wednesday, pre-dawn A.M., we were heading down to Encinitas to photograph the grand opening of a brand spanking new Whole Foods. Know the first thing we saw when walking through their front doors? That’s right! A huge display filled with the Stehly Organic Farms blackberries. And they were on sale for the grand opening! Hell yeah!
This time we got enough to eat and enough to make ice cream. After the batch was done, and all Diane could say between spoons, “This is freaking good ice cream.”
The Stehly Organic Farms Family: The shot list for this shoot was to capture the farm, details and most importantly the Stehly family story. The latter shots were our favorite.
The Stehly brothers & their family nestled in their groves
You can also just mash the blackberries instead of pureeing them (saves cleaning a blender 😉 ). The ice cream will just have bigger chunks of berries in it instead of being fairly smooth.
Makes about 1 quart.
- 1 1/2 cups Milk (375ml) we prefer whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups Sugar (300g)
- 4 large Egg Yolks
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (5ml)
- 1 1/2 cups Heavy Whipping Cream (375ml)
- 2 cups pureed Blackberries * see head note (480ml) (approx. 4 - 6 oz baskets of berries)
- 1 Tablespoon fresh Lemon Juice (15ml)
Combine the milk and sugar in a saucepan and gently warm to just less than scalding.
Whisk egg yolks and vanilla extract in a medium bowl. Slowly pour the warm milk into the eggs, whisking constantly. Next pour the egg/milk mix back into the saucepan.
Heat the milk/egg mix over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it coats the back of a spoon.
Combine the blackberry puree and lemon juice in a medium bowl. Cover with a strainer, and pour the milk/egg mixture into the blackberry mixture through the strainer to catch any chunky egg bits. Stir in the heavy cream.
Stir until cool over an ice bath. Cover and thoroughly chill in the refrigerator (at least a couple hours.)
Churn in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions (usually about 15 minutes but times will vary depending on ice cream maker).