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.
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.