Archives for posts with tag: blackberries

“It is like a jam factory in here” said Mum.

I’ve brought the boys to stay with my parents for a few days to do all the things we normally do, somewhere else, with extra pairs of hands.  We’re having fun.

One of our reasons for the trip is to collect late-summer fruit and make jam together.  My parents enjoy foraging just as much as we do so, equipped with large bags, punnets and a long pole, we head for the Dunton Plotlands, the remnants of an area of small holiday homes for Londoners from the early 1900s which became permanent abodes after The Blitz.  A variety of fruit trees, as well as the ubiquitous blackberry bush, are abundant in the area.

Being the summer holidays a lot of the fruit has already been collected but there is still more than we know what to do with.  We return home with early cooking apples, various types of plums, and damsons.

The apples went into a caramelised apple pie which we ate with cream for pudding.

We’ve decided that the best way to make jam-making less arduous is to simmer the fruit earlier in the day or even on the previous day and then add the sugar and make the jam in the evening, after the children have gone to bed.  Despite the fact that my Mum taught me to make jam we find that our methods have diverged somewhat over the years.  I like to use a jam thermometer, she doesn’t need one!  She likes to fish the stones out after the fruit is cooked rather than de-stone the cold fruit.

Our minor disagreements aside, we both agree that the jam tastes delicious!

I haven’t made this delicious beetroot risotto since before the boys were born but it is a great one for adults and babies alike. Although not for toddlers.  Not according to the toddler anyway.  His main complaint was that it was red.  I said it was purple.  He said…well you can imagine, it was a lengthy and unproductive discussion.  I don’t think it can have helped that (unbeknownst to me) he had tomato risotto (aka Orange Rice) at nursery.

Earlier in the day I had been trying to think of ways to distract the boys from the fact that we were having blackberries for the third day in a row.  Then, whilst attempting a (futile) rainy-day decluttering of The Cupboard of Doom, I stumbled across a set of lego man ice lolly moulds.  Surely this could not fail.

Sadly, for anyone looking for actual recipes here, there was not much change to the sorbet/jelly recipes that I have previously written about: 400g blackberries and 40g sugar.  Fruit gently stewed and juice (yield 200ml, three lollies) pushed through a sieve. I added just a dash of lemon and about 20ml water to help achieve a firmer freeze.  They took ages to set though and only one of them was firm enough for an outing at dinner time so I probably could have got away with more water.

The 39 year old was certainly impressed: “Oh, cool, a Lego man icy pole!”

The toddler was also impressed but more so when the man’s head fell off onto the table.

I’m still in the ‘can’t have too much of a good thing’ phase with blackberries.  It is only the first week in August after all.  It might last a while for me but I might have to rein myself in a bit when my husband starts throwing me a slightly nauseated look at the appearance of yet another blackberry creation.

Part of the problem is that my toddler loves blackberry picking (choosing to do that rather than go to the water park today) and then you have to do something with all the blackberries (although more go in his mouth directly than come home in his basket).

Anyway, today’s delight was a just-set blackberry jelly.  Pretty much the same recipe as the sorbet but with enough gelatine to set the liquid.  I infused a little mint with it today.   I felt they belonged together since the mint was growing in amongst the blackberries.  Not everyone agreed.

I love blackberries but the pips, well, they give me the pip.  Bad puns aside, I avoided any blackberry-based dessert for years for that reason.  I later realised that if they are mixed with other fruit or the berries are big and juicy enough you don’t notice the pips so much.  No problem with that this year as the berries are positively gigantic!

Having said that, my very favourite blackberry recipe is Delia Smith’s Quick Bramble Jelly.  It is best to wait until at least August before making it as the sweetest, juiciest berries give the best results.  The recipe says that it keeps for only a month but I have made it a few times now and it has kept for quite a bit longer than that.

I have had one and a half kilos of berries lurking in the fridge since the weekend and they really needed to be used but has been much too hot for jam-making so I gave them a quick (twenty minutes on a lowish heat) stew with 10% sugar and served some of them with yoghurt after dinner.

I strained the remainder (just over a kilo) through a fine sieve (which gave me 600ml of juice), added the juice of a lemon, put it in the fridge to chill and waited as long as I could bear before churning it in my ice cream maker.

The foraging frenzy has begun in our house as ripe raspberries, blackberries and dewberries are appearing daily in our local park.  There are a few plums around and we’ve also found marjoram, mint and horseradish growing wild.

The berries have also been put to good use in crumbles and pies or eaten raw or stewed alone or with yoghurt.  Now to deal with that horseradish!

The boys can’t get enough of foraging or eating our finds and it is fantastic to do a (free!) activity together that we all love.  I’m just wondering how long it will be before the eldest remembers the existence of Legoland!