As recently as 1988, food writers were saying that blackberries will not grow in sandy soil, yet South Carolina has at least six species that I know of, and I am no botanist. Some summers there is not much rain in the Lowcountry, and the wild varieties are small, hard, and bitter. But on Johns Island, just outside Charleston, farmers are growing cultivars that are large, sweet, and juicy even in drought. They are delicious in cobblers, simply splashed with cream, or infused into vinegar.

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Method

The recipe for this heavily sweetened vinegar comes from Old Receipts from Old St. Johns, written just outside Charleston at the turn of the century. Though the cookbook lists it as a beverage, I would drink it straight only as a sore throat remedy. Instead, pour a dollop or two over iced soda or seltzer water for a refreshing summertime drink or into a glass of low-acid wine, as for a kir. It is also delicious when splashed onto fruit salads, and it marries well with the pan juices from duck breasts or venison steaks when used to deglaze the pan.

In a nonreactive pot, cover ripe berries with white vinegar and let stand for 24 hours. The next day, scald the mixture by bringing it just to the point of boiling. Strain the liquid from the pulp, then add a pound of sugar to each pint of juice. Return the juice to the pot and boil for 20 minutes.

Strain the mixture again into sterilized wine bottles and cork.

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