the edible hedge in September

autumn fruits

In September, the edible hedge and all the other hedges around the fields are filled with berries and fruits. It is certainly one of the best months of all for foraging. The blackberries are in their prime just now, the rosehips and hawthorn berries are ripe, wild pears and crab apples are ready to use and the sloes are almost soft enough to pick.

edible hedge jelly print

Even the foliage can be used for jelly printing.


Mostly though, I’ve been picking blackberries. They’ll only be usable for another couple of weeks so I’m making the most of them. We’ve finished picking blackberries for Slamseys Gin, so now I can just wander along the hedgerow with a couple of containers, picking as I please. We eat them fresh and unadorned by the handful, mix them with autumn fruiting raspberries or throw them in a saucepan with a sprinkling of sugar and heat them long enough for the juices to run but not so long that they cook and fall apart. A dash of Blackberry Gin is added sometimes or a little cream. We’ve feasted on Blackberry Ice Cream, Blackberry Fool, cocktails with Blackberry Gin, a Blackberry Slice (from The Great British Farmhouse Cookbook) that’s like a Bakewell Tart made with a meltingly soft shortbread base, used them for Uncooked Porridge (sometimes in a jar and sometimes not)  and there are a few jars of Blackberry & Crab Apple Jelly (always preferable to jam with its pesky blackberry pips) lined up on the pantry shelf ready to spread on warm scones and pancakes on dark winter evenings.

My favourite preserve though is Bramble Spread. A delicious, utterly blackberry intense spread. Not solid and sliceable like a Quince Cheese, but half way between a butter and a cheese; more concentrated than jam and jelly because it’s little more than a sweet puree. Glorious on toast or scones. There’s no faffing around with jam thermometers or testing for set, no worrying whether I’ve made a super firm set jam that can be prised from the jar in one rubbery mass or whether I didn’t boil it for long enough and have a sauce to pour straight from the jar. Even if the Bramble Spread sets too firmly, I just call it Bramble Cheese and slice it to eat with cold meat or cheese.

To make Bramble Spread

800 g blackberries
800 g sugar

In a large pan, slowly heat the blackberries with 300 grammes of sugar and 120 ml of cold water and gently cook until the berries are soft.

Push through a sieve to get rid of the pips, then put the juice and pulp back in the (clean) pan with the remaining 500 grammes of sugar.

Over a low heat, stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer (not rapidly boil) for 20 minutes, still stirring.

Pour into ramekins or small jars, cover and label. Best eaten after two or three months during which time it will thicken a little more.

a virtual cabinet of curiosities

My virtual Cabinet of Curiosities is still rather bare, so some additions for April.

primroses, violets

On the nature shelf

is a celebration of the arrival of spring with flowers and leaves from the garden.

The Remarkables
On the shelf from abroad,

I give you The Remarkables from Kangaroo Island because they are truly remarkable. Balanced on top of a granite outcrop, these granite boulders have been eroded by wind and rain so that they resemble an enormous Henry Moore type sculpture on a plinth.

barley barn
On the miscellaneous shelf,

The Barley Barn that stands near the entrance to our farmyard. We believe the oldest part of this barn was built in the sixteenth century and that at the turn of the eighteenth century the rest of the barn was joined to it, using bits from earlier buildings including fourteenth century posts and Tudor bricks. It’s a beautiful barn but, as it’s no use for modern agriculture, it’s due to be renovated so it can be used as an art gallery and exhibition space. Work should start this summer, so it would be good to put the barn, in its current rather ramshackle state, into the virtual cabinet.

On the blogging shelf,

(this is virtual, so I can have anything I like) I wonder if I should put some blogs I enjoy reading. When I first discovered this blogging lark, I used my blogroll to check when blogs were updated, so I edited the list regularly, deleting those that went into terminal decline or moved. Then I started to use email notifications and WordPress Reader and I forgot to edit, so there were blogs on the list that hadn’t been updated for months and others that I’d lost interest in, while new blogs that I’d started to read weren’t added. It was no longer a reflection of what I was reading and instead of editing, I took the easy route and deleted the whole thing, choosing to link from posts to blogs that inspire me, which at least gives the reader some clue to what they’re going to find, rather than a random name in a list. But maybe I should reinstate my blogroll. Do you look down blogrolls and click to find out more? How do you decide who to include on yours? Or have blogrolls had their day?

a cabinet of curiosities

Ever since I read about John Tradescant’s collection of all things strange and rare that he housed in “The Ark” in London, I’ve longed for a little Cabinet of Curiosities. Not a houseful like Tradescant or even a room as the original Cabinets were, but just a little display cupboard.

 

collection

 

For a while I used a small glass topped box to display a few tiny treasures but Beth decided it would be an excellent display box filled with miniature bottles of Raspberry Gin and other little objects and she took it way to use on drink stall so now my collections live mainly in my coat pockets (collections being baler twine, penknife, funny shaped stones, Christmas tree labels …). Occasionally I make a small arrangement on a shelf or table but for some reason these don’t resemble the tasteful vignettes beloved by pinners on Pinterest  but attract spare change, pens and bits of paper until the whole thing turns into a dust covered heap of rubbish that I sweep away into the bin.

 

beethams bottle

 

So, what will I put in my Cabinet of Curiosities? Some old coins and a rumbler bell that have been unearthed in the fields, an old bottle that we found under the floorboards, pretty shells and stones picked up on walks. A fossil or two would be good or perhaps like Tradescant I might find the hand of a mermaid.

Until I have a cabinet, I shall make do with a virtual one.

 

nature study

 

On the nature shelf – a collection of the transition from winter to spring with an over wintered rose hip and poppy seedhead, feathers and snowdrops.

 

elephant skull from kenya

 

On the shelf from abroad – an enormous elephant skull in Kenya that will have to stay in my virtual cabinet as it will be far too big for a real one.

On the blogging shelf – a curiosity about comments because everyone seems to be writing about it at the moment so I may as well join in. I love getting comments here and enjoy reading comments on other people’s blogs unless there’s too many or they’re unnecessarily obsequious. Sometimes the comments change my mind about the post or just make me laugh and I love it when they take a flight of fancy and go off at a complete tangent.  I hate it when they get cliquey as when a group of bloggers meet up (in real life), each blog about how wonderful it was and then use the comments section to publicly thank each other for the presents they exchanged and remind each other about their fabulous day. Ooh, bit of a rant.

If I’ve got something constructive to say then I add my comment to the list or tweet the author but otherwise, I hit the “like” button just to say I was here and enjoyed reading your words or on rare occasions I slink away mystified. I don’t expect a reply so rarely return to sites to check, though I’m always delighted when my notifications box shows I’ve had a reply to a comment on another WordPress blog. Whilst I admire bloggers who reply to every comment or always make a reciprocal visit, I’m not that diligent and any effort to do so is never long lasting though I do answer any questions asked.

My maxim when commenting is that dissent is fine but rudeness is never acceptable; that I always give my name and never hide behind an “anonymous” identity; that I try to remain calm and have another go whenever I type in the wrong number and letters for that wretched word verification thing that some people insist on using.

I’m curious to hear your view. Go on, leave a comment.