There is a certain nostalgia attached to blackberry picking. Mention blackberry picking and I imagine happy families, wicker basket in hand wandering along the hedgerows on a sunny autumnal afternoon. The reality of our blackberry is picking is slightly less romantic, as Beth and I lean precariously over ditches, stand on tiptoe to reach high branches and debate the lowest height of a pickable blackberry (answer – no lower than a large dog can cock his leg).
It’s a good year for wild blackberries though the fruits are ripening very unevenly. On a single bush, dark purple berries disintegrate into mush alongside ripening berries of every colour from the hard green immature berry through pink and red to shiny purple fruits bursting with juice. It also seems a plentiful year for wasps, which inhabit every bush we pick, though they’re getting so dozy now that they just drop off the berry at the slightest shake of the branch.
Picking done, our hands scratched and purple stained, we return home laden with boxes filled with ripe blackberries. Most of the fruit goes straight to Slamseys Drinks, where it’s steeped in gin to produce a deep coloured Blackberry Gin, but I usually manage to divert some of the berries to the kitchen.
This week I’ve been cooking the blackberries with apples, damsons or raspberries to make a compote to spoon over our breakfast muesli or stir into yoghurt. When we’re fed up with that, I’ll make blackberry & apple betties or maybe a pie.
The raspberries are still fruiting but I’m running out of ideas for eating them, so it makes a welcome change to mix them with blackberries to eat with white chocolate cream.
Tonight though, we have Blackberry Jelly. Well, strictly speaking Blackberry & Blackberry Gin Jelly. Double blackberry. It makes a dark, rich jelly that we’ll eat with gingernut biscuits that are cooling as I write. We may even have a little Blackberry Gin cocktail to accompany our pudding. Triple blackberry.
Blackberry Jelly Recipe
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Juice ½ lemon
Pinch of cinnamon
100ml Blackberry Gin
4 gelatine leaves
Simmer the blackberries with the sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and 300ml water.
While they’re cooking, soak the gelatine leaves in a bowl of cold water.
When the blackberries have cooked to the point of collapse, drain them through a sieve. If you want a bright, clear jelly then don’t press the pulp. Quite frankly, I want every drop of juice and don’t mind a slightly opaque jelly. The choice is yours.
Whisk the softened gelatine into the hot juice and then stir in the Blackberry Gin.
Pour into a mould and leave to set overnight in a cold place.
Unmould and devour.