What a bumper crop of wild blackberries we have this year, I can’t quite remember when there was such an abundant harvest of plump and juicy FREE fruit. They have also ripened earlier than usual after those glorious sunny days, now just a distant memory.
It took me less than a half an hour to pick a huge bowl full…. My fingers were stained a delicious purple from the juice but it’s not just blackberries in the hedgerow, there are also lots of sloes and a promising crop of hazelnuts and crab apples too.
After my foraging expedition, I popped into town to do a bit of shopping and there on the display shelf in the midst of the season were plastic punnets of cultivated blackberries – €4.50 for 200g!
Maybe picking fruit off the brambles in the hedgerows isn’t everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but I love a blackberry picking expedition, particularly when the group is made up of all ages and bring a picnic along too.
We show the children how to inspect the fruit and pick perfect berries. If the central core is discoloured or stained with juice, it usually indicates that a maggot has moved in. Nature provides for all of us…
Blackberries are high in Vitamin C and antioxidants and were traditionally used to soothe sore throats. When picking, stick to hedgerows on country lanes or boreens and areas that haven’t been sprayed with chemicals, try to avoid busy roadsides….
Blackberries freeze brilliantly and are a wonderful standby during winter months for tarts, compotes, crumbles and jam. We pay lots of eager local children pocket money to harvest for us. There will certainly be a glut this year but what to do apart from freezing. Of course, there is jam but it’s worth remembering that blackberries are low in pectin, so you’ll need to add some tart, pectin rich apples to help the set and cut the sweetness. I like to include some chopped rosemary or sweet geranium to add some extra magic and how about making a cordial, wild blackberry mousse or a chutney…
We also love a riff on the classic Eton mess with wild blackberries or a mixture of blackberries and autumn raspberries. Maybe add a tablespoon or two of cassis if you have it.
I scattered a few into the batter for a batch of ‘wee buns’ today, slathered lemon icing on top and decorated them with a few fresh blackberries and sweet geranium leaves. I got showered with compliments while they disappeared like hot cakes.
In fact, you can pretty much substitute blackberries for any other summer berries in recipes.
Blackberry fool is also delish, try folding a few berries into your breakfast bircher muesli with a little grated tart apple. How about sprinkling a fistful of frozen blackberries into a batch of muffins or clafoutis. Sprinkle them with sweet geranium sugar. Blackberry ice-cream and blackberry and sweet geranium granita are also exquisite. Everyone should have a sweet geranium plant to add that hauntingly, beautiful lemony flavour to so many dishes but it has a particular affinity to blackberries.
It’s also worth making a wild blackberry syrup, just mash equal parts of blackberries, sugar and cider vinegar in a sterilized Kilner jar and allow to sit for a couple of weeks in a cool spot. Decant and dilute with sparkling water and lots of ice.
A more grown-up version…. blackberry gin or vodka is also super easy to make and use as a base for festive fizz or a perfect Christmas present.
So get gathering, it will be the game season soon, a fistful scattered into the pan when roasting pork, duck or game bird is delicious crushed into the gravy with lots of thyme. Add a few squished blackberries to a mojito …there’s no end to the delicious ways to use your wild blackberry harvest.
are a few recipes for you to enjoy…
Wee Blackberry Buns with Lemon Icing and Sweet Geranium Leaves
If you don’t have sweet geranium, substitute fresh mint leaves for these adorable ‘wee buns’.
175g (6oz) soft butter
150g (5oz) castor sugar
3 eggs, preferably free range
175g (6oz) self-raising flour
110g (4oz) wild blackberries
Lemon Glacé Icing
225g (8oz) icing sugar
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2-4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bun tray with 10-12 holes
Line the base of the tins with small muffin papers or bun cases…
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4.
Put the soft butter, castor sugar, eggs and self-raising flour into the bowl of a food processor. Whizz for a few seconds to amalgamate. Sprinkle the blackberries over the mixture, fold in gently, then – Divide evenly between the 10 or 12 cases depending on size. I sometimes lay a geranium leaf on top of each bun. Bake in the preheated oven for 20- 25 minutes approx. or until golden and well risen.
Cool on a wire rack.
Meanwhile make the Lemon Glacé Icing.
Sieve the icing sugar into a bowl. Add the lemon zest and
enough lemon juice to make a softish icing. Use a palette knife to spread a
little icing on each bun, decorate the tops with fresh blackberries and a sweet
geranium leaf if available, alternatively use a fresh mint leaf…
Beth’s Wild Blackberry Mouse
I loved this blackberry mousse which I tasted recently at a friend’s house. I call it Beth’s wild blackberry mousse, but she was insistent that I tell you that the recipe originally came from the Times Cookery Book by Katie Stewart. Not sure if it’s still in print but it’s a book well worth trying to get a copy of. *Beth tells me she likes to use less gelatine which seems perfect to me.
Serves 4 to 6
450g (1lb) blackberries
110g (4oz) caster sugar
juice of 1 small lemon
3 tablespoons cold water
15g (1/2oz) gelatine *
150ml (5fl oz) double cream
2 egg whites
Pick over and wash the blackberries. Place in a saucepan with the sugar and the strained lemon juice. Place over a low heat, cover and gently simmer for 10 minutes.
Measure the water into a bowl and sprinkle with gelatine. Leave for 5 minutes.
Draw the pan of fruit off the heat and stir in the soaked gelatine.
Pass this through a sieve into a large mixing bowl to make a purée, rubbing through as much fruit as possible and then discard the pips in the sieve.
Put the purée aside to get cold and start to thicken.
Lightly whip the cream and stiffly beat the egg whites. Fold the cream in first and then the egg whites into the purée. Pour into a serving dish and chill until set.
Serve with extra cream if liked, and a few fresh blackberries on top.
Blackberry, Bramley Apple and Rosemary Jelly
Makes 2.7 – 3kg (6-7lbs) approx.
2.7kg (6lbs) crab apples or windfall cooking apples
2.7L (4 3/4 pints) water
2 unwaxed lemons
900g (2lbs) blackberries
3 sprigs of rosemary
2-3 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped at the last minutes
Wash the apples and cut into quarters, do not remove either peel or core. Windfalls may be used, but make sure to cut out the bruised parts. Put the apples into a large saucepan with the water and the thinly pared rind of the lemons, add the blackberries and 3 sprigs of rosemary. Cook until reduced to a pulp, approx. 3/4 hour.
Turn the pulp into a jelly bag* and allow to drip until all the juice has been extracted – usually overnight. Measure the juice into a preserving pan and allow 425g (15oz) sugar to each 600ml (1 pint) of juice*. Warm the sugar in a low oven.
*We use 350g (12oz) of sugar, but if you wish to keep the jelly for 9 months or more, it may be preferable to use 425g (15oz) to each 600ml (1 pint).
Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice and add to
the preserving pan. Bring to the boil and add the warm sugar and 3 tablespoons
finely chopped rosemary. Stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and boil rapidly uncovered
without stirring for about 8-10 minutes.
Test, skim and pot immediately.
Base for a delicious fresh tasting super nutritious drink.
Dilute with sparkling water.
Equal quantities of:
Mash the blackberries and sugar together, add the vinegar. Put into a glass jar, cover and store in a
cool dark cupboard for 2 weeks. Strain
and bottle. Serve with sparkling water
and lots of ice.
Blackberry and Sweet Geranium Gin
Make this now and enjoy neat or as a base for a Blackberry and Sweet Geranium gin and tonic.
600g (1 1/4lbs) blackberries
600g (1 1/4lbs) sugar
600ml (1 pint) gin or vodka
4-6 sweet geranium leaves (pelargonium graveolens)
Put all the ingredients into a bottle for 2 – 3 months. Enjoy in small
glasses. Damsons, sloes and haws also make delicious liqueurs. We’ve had
excellent results with both gin and vodka.
Blackberry and Sweet Geranium Sorbet
Sweet Geranium (Pelargonium Graveolens) has a wonderful affinity with blackberries. Fresh mint or lemon verbena leaves could also be substituted – deliciously refreshing.
450g (1lb) wild blackberries
75g (3oz) sugar
150ml (5fl oz) water
4-6 large sweet geranium leaves (depending on size)
Put the sugar, water and sweet geranium leaves into a saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, boil for 3-4 minutes. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, liquidise and sieve the blackberries through a nylon sieve. When the syrup is cold, mix with the blackberry purée, taste, it ought to taste a little too sweet at this stage, but add some fresh lemon juice if it’s cloying. Freeze in a sorbetière for about 20 minutes. Alternatively, put into a freezer until almost frozen, then take it out and break up the crystals with a whisk or in a food processor, return to the freezer and repeat once or twice more. If you do not have a sorbetière you might like to fold half a stiffly beaten egg white into the sorbet to lighten the texture.
Serve a scoop of sorbet on chilled white plates, decorate with whole blackberries and sweet geranium leaves.