Blackberry Summer

blackberry dinner party

the flower sak bouquet


I pulled myself up out of bed, hobbled to the kitchen, and hefted a slab of pork shoulder from Creekridge Farms into a roasting pan and slid it into the oven. It had been marinating over night in a wet rub of mustard, brown sugar, Fat Elvis blend by Alchemy Spice Co. (a local company), and Sea Smoke Salt (graciously sent to me by Old Salt Merchants). That salt is unreal, intensely smoky. After placing it in its’ new home in the oven, I promptly went back upstairs & fell into bed. I was supposed to meet Hannah, Rebekka, and Sarah at Crabtree Farms to pick blackberries for supper that night, but due to an inexplicable stomach ache, I curled up and had them go on frolicking without me, trusting their berry picking prowess, and trusting I would feel better as the day wore on.

And by some miracle, I did. By the time everything was said and done, I was surrounded by a group of friends both old and new having what could best be described as an idyllic summer evening in Tennessee. Maybe one of the best I’ve had in years. We talked & cooked together all afternoon while munching on a southern style charcuterie plate of whiskey sausage, Rebekka’s pimento cheese, bread, and spicy deep fried peanuts. My new go to victuals, for sure. By the time we sat down to share the meal we had a beautiful country spread that seemed to come together with no effort at all: slow roasted, smoky pulled pork with a spicy blackberry barbecue sauce (recipe after the jump), buttermilk biscuits with jams & butter, a tomato & purslane salad (recipe after the jump) with local blue cheese from Sequatchie Cove, steamed whole artichokes with lemon butter that Hannah made, pickles, and sweet tea! And all of it followed by sorghum, buttermilk, & grilled peach ice cream sandwiched between cornmeal basil cookies (coming soon!).



Blackberry Summer

Earlier that day, I re-awoke in a tangle around noon, sun streaming in the windows, feeling human again. I tied a scarf around my bedhead in a turban, threw my apron on, and went to setting a simple table; it didn’t need much due to a pretty lace tablecloth scored from a pile of dusty linens at the Nashville flea market and locally grown flowers cut and arranged by Kelly Preslar, who’s just opened up the best little flower business, The Flower Sak.

Table set, Rebekka showed up first bearing homemade pimento cheese, pickled peppers & cukes from her own garden, a loaf of bread, a hunk of St. André, and a proud quart of blackberries. Proud because we wouldn’t have had any if it weren’t for her ninja picking skills as there weren’t many to be found. I like to imagine her elbowing small children out of the way…even though I don’t think there’s a person on the face of the earth more difficult to imagine elbowing small children. Which is precisely why I find it so amusing. She’s both gentle & kind without being a fainting goat or ingratiating in the least. No pretense. Just a real, live, honest-to-god nice person with infectious enthusiasm & crazy talent (of which you can find more on her blog here).

Blackberry Summer

Making Blackberry BBQ Sauce

Hannah arrived next, with fat artichokes and her general ability to have me in stitches. Again, no pretense. And in Hannah’s case very little filter. That’s why I love these people. Secure in their insecurities, honestly human, hilarious & kind. They’re the sort of people you let your guard down with after knowing them for all of five minutes. Because they don’t have walls up. The best sorts. The blackberry BBQ sauce was, by the way, Hannah’s idea. She has all the good ideas (many of which she shares on her blog Nothing But Delicious…and that’s exactly what it is).

Sarah followed, who I had the pleasure of meeting that day. She brought tomatoes from her garden still wet with rain and the most prized gift of the day: a kombucha mother! Thank you, Sarah! A mother of six beautiful children, a dancer, and in my estimation a generally wise cookie of the tough variety, I’m so happy to have met her. Also, she had an electronic cigarette she let me chief on. So between that and the kombucha mother, I was instantly sold!

Blackberry Summer

Blackberry Summer

Lastly my friend Joseph arrived, who I invited last minute and thoroughly expected to turn me down. I’m so glad he didn’t! He is (besides being one of my most intelligent friends, favorite people to talk to, and taco accomplice) a talented wood worker. Anyhow, he brought along some cutting boards he was working on, over which all of us womenfolk promptly freaked out. His work is beautiful, and I hope to be able to share it with you all soon.

The fact is my friends have been few and far between over the years. When I was drinking, I possessed a remarkable ability (as most drunks do) to alienate even the most tenacious of friends. The person I am today was hidden beneath thick layers of insanity & what would generally be considered antisocial behavior. Like being out of your ever lovin’ mind drunk at a funeral kind of behavior. Or compulsive lying. Or disappearing for days on end. I think I counted six people who still maybe kind of liked me back then: my mom, my sister-in-law, William (my best friend since junior high), Jason (a dear friend), Joseph (see above), and, of course, Patrick.

Blackberry Summer

Now everything is different. The person those precious six people could see…now everyone can. Now, I’m just me, faults and all to be sure. But I’m not, as I like to say, a real horror show anymore. Just a person in a turban forbidding people to look in a messy fridge. A person bossing people around the kitchen (I can be bossy there). But there I am. To be amongst, to join. To be present. What a neat thing.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am to have met these ladies & have them in my life. Their humor & kindness & honesty are so refreshing. What luck! But then again, I don’t believe in luck. Not at all. There are moments when I feel like I must have everyone hoodwinked, that my friends must be confused. But then I remember that everything is so new. And that I don’t suck to be around anymore. I won’t get ill on your shoes or cry in your lap. I’ll just feed you fluffy biscuits. You’re welcome.

A few things I’ve been up to: a bit back this creative Q&A with Tara Hurst

This column for Food52. All seasonal southern. Every other Monday. Look for some Sweet Corn + Black Pepper ice cream today!

Peach pies featured in the digital publication Home Gourmet Magazine. You can use this code for 2 free months tryhgm2months  

And a profile on the back page of this past issue of Spenser Magazine.


Blackberry Summer


Blackberry Summer

Blackberry Summer

Blackberry Summer

Blackberry BBQ Sauce

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Yield: about 2 cups of sauce

I'm not going to say this recipe tastes better when the blackberries were picked that morning by good friends, but maybe. Regardless, freshly picked summer blackberries make the perfect base for a tangy sweet & savory barbecue sauce to slather all over fall apart tender pulled pork.


  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 quart blackberries
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1/3 cup honey (I used dark wildflower)
  • 1/4 light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp dry mustard
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne (or to taste)
  • 2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt (plus more to taste)


  1. Heat oil in a saucepan until shimmering.
  2. Add onions and garlic and cook until fragrant & translucent without browning, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients stirring to combine.
  4. Simmer until blackberries are broken down, about 10 minutes.
  5. Taste and adjust seasoning with either salt or sugar to your liking.
  6. Blend sauce in a blender and pass through a wire mesh sieve using the back of a ladle in a swirling motion without applying so much pressure that you push seeds through.
  7. Store sauce in a jar up to a couple of weeks in the fridge.



Blackberry Summer

Faux Smoked Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder

Prep Time: 7 hours

Cook Time: 7 hours

Total Time: 14 hours

Yield: 6-7 servings

With the addition of a strong smoked salt & some liquid smoke, you create some of that smoker flavor in this oven roasted pork. The recipe for the wet rubs is more of a suggestion, and you should mix yours to your own taste. I like mine tangy, slightly sweet, and spicy. While only taking about 15 minutes hands on, this needs to marinade overnight & then cook pretty much all day, so plan accordingly.


  • 1 pork shoulder ("butt"), 3-4 lbs
  • 1/3 cup dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp dry rub (I use Alchemy Spice Co.'s Fat Elvis)
  • 1 Tbsp smoked salt (I use Old Salt Merchants Sea Smoke)
  • 2 tsp kosher salt (optional)
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp liquid smoke


  1. Mix the dry rub and the smoked salt together. Taste. Add kosher salt if desired. You want it to be salty.
  2. Mix mustard, brown sugar, and liquid smoke in a bowl. Mix in dry rub and salts to form a paste.
  3. Taste again and adjust sugar or salt as desired.
  4. Rub pork shoulder all over with paste.
  5. Wrap in plastic wrap and marinade for a few hours or overnight. I prefer overnight.
  6. Heat oven to 250°
  7. Place shoulder in a roasting pan with a rack and roast 5-7 hours until falling apart. I start checking after 1 hr per pound.
  8. Allow pork to rest for about 10 minutes and then transfer pork to a large platter to "pull" the meat using two forks (or your fingers like me) to shred it.
  9. Serve with your favorite BBQ Sauce.



Blackberry Summer

Purslane & Tomato Salad

Total Time: 10 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

This is hardly a recipe. But just in case you were wondering, here's how I made the salad.


  • 1 cup assorted small tomatoes (like cherry & pear), halved
  • 3 heirloom tomatoes, sliced (core removed)
  • 2 cups purslane leaves, stems left on a few
  • handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup good blue cheese (I get mine from Sequatchie Cove Creamery
  • flaky sea salt, for sprinkling
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • 1-2 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil


  1. Arrange tomato slices on a platter and sprinkle them evenly with sea salt.
  2. Top with purslane, basil, and cheese,
  3. Drizzle on the oil and vinegar, and crack the pepper over it to taste.

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30 Responses to Summer Soirée: Blackberry BBQ Sauce & Faux Smoked Pulled Pork

  1. Your new blog design looks so beautiful! AS do the photos. i never cease to be amazed by your talent and creativity. Seriously :-)

  2. Li Mei says:

    Just came across your blog today and wow, I am in love with it! Keep it up!

  3. yossy says:

    Beth! what a wonderful post on the power and importance of friendships. and that salad looks a+. I have been making a very similar one this summer with tomatoes, cukes, purslane, and a garlicky sherry vinegar dressing and a bit fat dollop of greek yogurt on top. so tasty.

  4. Kristina says:

    tHAT salad looks to die for! thanks for sharing, i’ll have to try!

  5. Such gorgeous photos: from half artichoke to flower pieces on a table. I am sure you had a great time surrounded by such beauty and good friends!

  6. Sina says:

    What a beautiful post with lovely photos and mouthwatering dishes. I am a new follower to your blog and just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading this one.

  7. Anni says:

    Bah, i just left a rambling comment and i think it gotten eaten.

    the gist of it was – i love everything you said here. and the photos of course.

    i don’t believe in luck, either. it’s not a popular viewpoint, but i think it’s much more romantic that we make the most of what happens, that we dust ourselves off and live the best we can.

  8. sarah says:

    Gorgeous post. And what a wonderful meal and time spent.

  9. Sherri B. says:

    A very touching post…almost a bit too close for comfort (alcohol in my past also) but so true about the real friends that see inside you.

    I was just wondering what new things I could do with my loads of blackberries along our drive and here it is. My hubby will be happy to give this a try on the grill, Thanks!

  10. Katy Noelle says:

    “ninja picking skills”…. heeheeheeheeheeeee!! =) “Friends that you can let your turbaned hair down with” – brilliant and priceless!! Comfortable in our own skin – faults and strengths…. all things that I deeply prize!! Thanks for even mentioning them and thanks for forcing me to make such an unpretentious comment with no capitols (capitals??? I can never remember….) at all!!

    Best to you! =)


    uh, oh! Sherri’s post has Big letters… are they going to magically appear when I publish? I might be disappointed. =/

  11. Katy Noelle says:

    How curious…. I thought it was my shift key but, when I type this comment, it doesn’t seem to work but when I published, the correct punctuation magically appeared! Too much excitement for one day! ;)

  12. Katy Noelle says:

    Lord have mercy… I’m still not making sense! Never mind!! =P

  13. Hi, this is a new blog for me, but I just wanted to say I absolutely love it and its really inspiring – the pictures look so surreal – in a good way! they make everything look incredible. Ill continue reading with interest. Take care,

  14. […] View Recipe Ingredients & Preparation Instructions […]

  15. Your feast was wonderful but what it more special is that you where surrounded by friends and shared in the experience. I love this pork since it is easy and I have limited skills. So inspiring.

  16. lydia says:

    “Secure in their insecurities …” It’s beautiful. I continue to strive for it. thank you. :)

  17. Your post made me a bit sad. We’re moving quite a lot with T. and we’re leaving good friends behind almost each two years. We still keep in touch, but friendship on dystans is different. You’re a lucky gal.

  18. Lizzy says:

    As a recently sober person myself, (I have 9 months) I have often found myself avoiding certain blogs and magazine spreads which include alcohol. It’s like I can’t stand the jokes about it or the effortless sexy way in which people are posed drinking it. My drinking was definetly not sexy or cute or funny. I was so pleasantly surprised when you mentioned that you are sober as well. Thank you for sharing such an intimate part of yourself as well as your beautiful food and friendships. It reminded me that I am not alone, and there are sober people who love food!

  19. Julia says:

    What a post! An ode to real friendship! And the barbecue sauce is so tempting1

  20. Shelly says:

    You’ve set up such an inspiring photo set of what a beautiful gathering should be like! I am totally in love with your photography and the blackberry bbq recipe sounds pretty intriguing!

  21. Heather says:

    What true words. Lovely, lovely pictures per usual.
    This was my first time having the courage to try one of your recipes , and I must say, I couldn’t keep my fingers off that blackberry bbq suace! My pork is slowly simmering in the oven as I type this. Thank you for posting! I won’t be shying away anymore from your recipes :)

  22. laurasmess says:

    This is such a raw, honest and insightful post Beth. I’m lucky enough to have lots of friends from all walks of life (as I haven’t moved much. Boring but stable) but I spent many, many years hiding in a shell of myself. Out of fear, mostly. I don’t want to get too ‘deep’ in a little comment but I just wanted to say thanks for being so ‘real’ in everything you write. You’re beautiful and I’m glad that you’re in a better place now, unhindered by ‘the beast’ that alcohol can be (a wonderful, delicious and liberating beast, but a beast all the same). These recipes are beautiful. I love the ‘community’ aspect of your foodie celebration and I’m happy that we can experience the wonder of home-grown produce and shared deliciousness through your blog. Beautiful photos. I am going to try that blackberry BBQ sauce as soon as I can get my hands on some berries… hm, I’m thinking frozen blackberry wonderment, seeing as it’s winter over here? I can’t wait months, it’s just too hard…! Thanks again lovely xx

  23. […] Blackberry BBQ Sauce & Faux Smoked Pulled Pork […]

  24. […] find the recipe for the salad on Hannah’s blog, Nothing But Delicious); and a big platter of BBQ pork shoulder from Creekridge Farms & local sausages from Porter Road Butcher all in Beth […]

  25. Alia says:

    One of my favorite things is finding a blog I love and then reading back through the archives! It is like discovering an amazing show on netflix and being able to watch the whole thing right away. I am currently back to May 2012 on your lovely, amazing, stop me if this is getting creepy, blog.

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that I made your pulled pork recipe this weekend and my husband loved it. He pulled off a piece of crispy, black, seasoned, skin with a bit of tender meat attached and said (and I quote) “Oh yeah, I can already tell this will be the best thing I ever eat!” High praise coming from someone for whom BBQ is a favorite food (both of us feel strongly about BBQ actually), and that was with me forgetting to marinate it overnight and not being able to cook it for quite long enough!

    So I guess I found my go to pulled pork recipe! Thank you for sharing your delicious food and also being awesome.

  26. […] I was glad to see my all time favourite food blog Local Milk nominated.  Beth seems like one of these people I would love to share a meal and conversation with.  She recently posted the recipe featured in the picture for chamomile panna cotta with lemon poppy olive oil shortbread which just makes my mouth water. I have also bookmarked this sweet potato kale tortilla soup and this faux smoked pulled pork. […]

  27. […] Blackberry Barbecue Pork (via Local Milk) […]

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