It’s blackberry season.
There’s an abundance of them down by the Leeds Liverpool Canal, just a stone’s throw from where I live. It’s a very pleasant way to spend a summer’s evening.
It brings back a lot of memories. It was an annual tradition. Mum, me, Mum’s Aunt Nan and Aunt Nan’s walking stick. The stick wasn’t really needed for actually walking, but it was everso useful for hooking the out-of-reach branches to get at the best berries!! I wonder what ever happened to that walking stick!!
And then after the berry picking, there was the jam making. This involved a lot of boiling, a lot of discussion about how much sugar was needed, and whether to use apples or lemon for the pectin.
A Heath Robinson contraption involving an upturned kitchen stool would appear in the kitchen, with a clean tea-towel tied to the four legs of the stool to form a bag. The boiled berries were poured into it, with a bowl underneath to catch the drips.
There were strict instructions not to squeeze the bag. This appeared, on the scale of ‘things children shouldn’t do’, to be a mortal sin.
Turns out, all it does is make the jelly cloudy. But if you squeeze the bag you get more juice out, ergo more jelly. These days, I squeeze. Waste not want not. I’m surprised my mother hadn’t thought of that.
My other memory of blackberry jelly is of the finished product. We always went up to Scotland to visit relatives for our summer holiday when I was little. I had another Aunt (sister of the first Aunt), who we visited. I remember one time, sat at Auntie Bella’s kitchen table – my cousins were there too – and she made drop scones (Scotch pancakes) on the griddle. We ate them warm, with butter and blackberry jelly. And they just kept on coming, until we were as full and as sticky as it was possible to be.
The blackberries on the canal aren’t totally ripe yet – I’ve only gathered enough for a couple of puddings so far – but it won’t be long before there are so many that I run out of things to do with them!!
My favourites recipes and general ideas –
- Blackberry and apple – either as a pie or a crumble, or cold with natural yogurt
- Blackberry jelly, obviously
- Hot unsweetened berries, cooked until the juices start to run, poured over vanilla ice cream. The colour combination is amazing, and the sweetness of the ice cream makes up for the lack of sugar in the sauce.
- A thicker-than-normal sauce, as a substitute for cranberry with turkey, or instead of apple sauce with pork. For extra zing try poaching them in red wine – you only need a dash.
- And of course you can put them in a smoothie for some blood-curdling colour.
- Put them in the freezer and use them instead of ice cubes in a drink.
- Apple and blackberry cupcakes. The apple, and a bit of cinnamon, is in the base, the blackberries colour the icing and you can use a couple for decoration. Mmm.
What do you do with blackberries?
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