A little weekend sunshine was the perfect enticement for a little foraging in the hedgerow. The rosehips in the fields are not quite ready for picking but there were plenty of tiny crab apples falling to the ground in Lakes Field and still a few blackberries in amongst the brambles. The blackberries are getting smaller now and some of them are a little hard and seedy rather than the voluptuous swelling berries of September, but they still taste good.
There were enough blackberries to mix with Discovery and Sunset apples from the garden to make a compote to eat with yoghurt and oats for breakfast and to make individual Blackberry & Apple Betties to put in the freezer. I love fruit crumbles but I think the breadcrumb topping of a betty is even better for blackberries and apples. These are easy to make – (based on Nigel Slater’s recipe) just cook slices of apple in a little water until they’re soft but not falling apart, drain them and put into dishes with a few blackberries and a pinch of cinnamon. Mix soft white breadcrumbs with soft brown sugar – these six dishes used about 70g breadcrumbs and 30g sugar. Then melt 30g butter with 2 tablespoons of golden syrup and pour over the breadcrumbs. Cook them at 200C for about twenty minutes. Mine are now stashed in the freezer, ready to bring out when it’s cold and miserable. I’ve long since realised that if I put a bag of unprepared fruit into the freezer, it tends to stay there, whereas prepared dishes – crumbles, betties, compotes or pies – can be plucked from the freezer and cooked in the time it takes to prepare the main course.
The last of the blackberries were used with the crab apples to make jars of Blackberry and Apple Jelly to spread on pancakes, soft white bread and scones. I normally prefer to make jams to jelly (less faffing about) but I’m not too keen on the blackberry pips in Blackberry Jam. I left the fruit to drain through a jelly bag overnight, but as usual couldn’t resist the urge to squeeze the bag to extract that last drop of juice. Despite cookery book assurances that this would turn the jelly cloudy, it doesn’t seem to have done so. A spoonful of Blackberry Gin in each jar adds to the flavour. I’ve learnt to put the gin in first as I forgot one year and added it after I’d potted the jelly. If the jelly had been a wobbling, barely set jar of goodness it wouldn’t have been a problem. However, that batch was a particularly firm set and instead of percolating through the jelly, the gin pooled on the surface. The first spoonful out of the first jar was a bit of a surprise.