Blackberrying at the end of the summer holidays is a great way to get all the family outdoors and involved. After a fun and competitive few hours of blackberrying the cooking possibilities areendless.
When: The blackberry season spans the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. During August try blackberries served simply with sugar and cream. They’re also great muddled into a cold martini on a balmy evening. In the autumn blackberries are the perfect additional ingredients in comforting hot pies and puddings made by combining blackberries with the first apples of the season.
Where: Bramble bushes on roadside verges, field hedgerows and borders, Pick Your Own Farms.
Method: Be careful when approaching blackberry bushes. They are covered with thorns and more than likely you are going to get scratched. Some may be tempted to wear gloves to protect their hands however; this can make it easier to squash the berries.
When the berries are ripe take your basket with you to a well-laden bush. Pick the berries that are dark in colour, almost black. If you pick them too early they will be red and bitter. Put your forefinger and thumb just behind the berry and gently pull towards you. If it easily pops off then it is ripe. It should leave the white end of the stem behind. You might need to pull harder but if you are consistently pulling the entire end of the stem off, then more than likely the berries are not quite ripe yet. If this is the case, you might want to wait a day or two.
* Wearing protective clothing, such as long jeans, will help you get further into the bramble bush and get the biggest and best berries.
* Taking an apple picker on a long pole will help to pull the usually unreachable stems within easy picking grasp.
* You should identify the best bushes and pick there before a whole army of passers by have already taken the fruit. The best patches for serious blackberrying are most often away from footpaths and common trails so be prepared to make your own trails to get there.
* Don’t waste time picking on a bush which has already been well picked, it makes the job slow and laborious, move on to an unidentified bush.
* To get everyone enthusiastic and involved make it a competition. Everyone has their own punnet or basket and the person with the most blackberries after 1 hour is the winner.
* Eat as you go!
Keepblackberries dry and cool and eat within a day or two. Blackberries freeze well: spread unwashed berries in a single layer on a foil covered tray (prevents sticking) and freeze until solid efore transferring to air-tight bags or containers.
3 large blackberries
1 shot of fresh lime juice (lemon juice can be used)
1 tsp sugar
1 or 2 shots of gin
Top up with soda (sparkling water or lemonade can replace soda)
1. Put blackberries in a highball glass, add lime juice, and sugar and crush and mix together.
2. Add the gin and mix together in a cocktail shaker.
3. Pour into a highball glass half filled with ice cubes.
4. Top up with soda.
5. Stir and garnish with cut blackberries.
Blackberry Crumble Cake
2 large Eggs
170g plain flour
120g Butter, diced
1. Preheat oven to 18ºC/gas 4. Grease and line a 500g loaf tin.
2. Place the butter in a mixing bowl. Add in the sugar and beat until light and fluffy. 3. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating in well with each addition.
4. Fold in 120g of the flour.
5. Spoon the mixture into the loaf tin, spreading to the edges. Top with the blackberries.
6. Place the remaining flour in a bowl. Add in the butter and rub until the butter is absorbed and the mixture resembles crumbs. Mix in the sugar.
7. Sprinkle the mixture over the blackberries.
8. Bake for 45-50 minutes until golden. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly before turning out.
Goat’s Cheese, Pear and Blackberry Tart
Butter, for greasing
375g sheet of rolled Puff pastry
85g Goats cheese
2 Pears, quartered and sliced into three
1 tbsp lemon juice
25g caster sugar
2 tbsp clear Honey
1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4. Grease a 23 x 33cm baking tray with butter.
2. Lay the puff pastry in the tray, leaving the edges overhanging. Mix the pears with the lemon juice.
3. Spread the goat’s cheese evenly over the pastry. Top with the pear slices, then sprinkle over the blackberries and sugar.
4. Bake for 25 minutes until the pastry is golden and the fruit are cooked. Serve warm from the oven drizzled with honey.
Blackberry Ice Cream
750ml single cream
5 egg yolks beaten
150g caster sugar
350g fresh Blackberries
1. Wash the blackberries and puree the fruit in a jug using a hand blender. Press puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds, if desired. Put the fruit puree to one side.
2. Now make a simple custard by pouring the cream into a sauce pan with the beaten egg yolks and sugar. Put this on the cooker and heat on a medium heat stirring frequently to prevent the bottom burning. You need to bring this almost to the boil but not quite, and allow to thicken. This ensures the egg is cooked into the mixture and the sugar has all dissolved. Pour into a cold jug and leave to cool down.
3. When cool mix in the fruit puree and put the mix in your Ice Cream Maker, following the manufacturer’s recipe timing. Alternatively you can freeze it in the freezer but Ice Cream makers freeze more quickly producing smaller ice crystals.
Blackberry, Apple and Gin Relish (to be Served with a Seared Loin of Venison)
2 Bramley apples
4tbsp unrefined Demerara sugar
1. Peel the apples, dice them into small pieces and add to pan with the sugar.
2. Add a splash of water and cover. Return to a gentle heat and cook for about 10 minutes, or until the apples have broken down to a coarse pulp.
3. Add the berries and cook for a further 10 minutes.
4. Remove from the heat and stir in the gin. Taste, and if the relish is too sharp then stir in some more sugar. Set to one side.