Blackberries have been early this year. Appearing in our hedgerows from June onwards, they are ready to harvest anytime between August to October. Heralding the change of the seasons from the glut of fresh summer strawberries and raspberries, the erstwhile blackberry is to these frivolous fruits like an older brother - darker, serious and infinitely more interesting.
If you are lucky enough to have access to a large amount of blackberries you can freeze them - open freeze on a tray, initially, then place in a sealed bag. You can also make a puree: put the blackberries in a food processor and add sugar to taste (usually about 10% sugar to the weight of the fruit but the acidity will be different every time). Blend this and pass through a sieve. You can freeze this or use it as a sauce, or turn it through a cheesecake, eton mess or a fool. You could also ripple it through churned vanilla ice cream before freezing.
Perhaps the best way to enjoy this free and foraged bounty is to stuff them into your mouth, greedily, straight from the stems, allowing the softer fruits to burst and stain your fingers. For those a little more forward-looking we recommend capturing the flavour of this wonderful fruit in a preserve. For us, though we are big fans of jam, it has to be a jelly. The crystal clear purple quiver of a just set blackberry jelly is a grand thing. And there is nothing better to beat the winter blues than a large spreading of it on toasted, buttered sourdough. Or you can use it, as we do, as a filling for macarons, or in sponge cakes, jam tarts - whatever you like. It makes a particularly good filling for a twist on the classic bakewell slice.
You will need:
A preserving pan or large saucepan
An accurate thermometer
Sterilised jam jars
A jam funnel
Wax paper discs
A small saucer
As with any jam or jelly recipe ensure all your equipment is spotlessly clean and your jars are sterilised.
Put the saucer in the freezer. Place your blackberries in a bowl of water and leave for a few minutes and then rinse thoroughly. Place in the preserving pan and just cover with water. Boil and then simmer gently for around 20 minutes until soft. Strain through a jelly bag or a large muslin-lined colander overnight. Do not press the fruit or disturb at this point otherwise your jelly may become cloudy. The next day remove and discard the fruit and measure the juice into a clean pan. Add 350g sugar and 100g jam sugar and a squeeze of lemon juice per 575ml of juice and stir over a low heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil hard until the temperature reads 105 degrees on the thermometer.
We find it best to also do the ‘wrinkle test’ to ensure the jelly has the perfect set - once the jelly hits 105 degrees remove your saucer from the freezer and place a small amount of jam onto it. Leave for one minute then push your finger through. The jelly should wrinkle.
If it doesn’t, boil hard for a minute and repeat the process. Pour into jars with the jam funnel on and place a wax disc on top. This will stop any steam forming condensation. Place the lids on while the jam is hot.
This is more a suggestion than a recipe. You could add any herbs or spices you think will work. These simple pickled blackberries are delicious as part of a cheeseboard or served with duck or game.
200g red wine
2 tsp salt
4 allspice berries, crushed
1 cardamom pod, crushed
8 white peppercorns, crushed
Pack your blackberries into a sterilised jar. Add a small bay leaf and a sprig of rosemary. Boil the rest of the ingredients for 5 minutes and leave to infuse for half an hour. Strain over the blackberries and seal. Leave for a week or two for the flavour to develop.
We love the flavour of Blackberries at T+B and one of our most popular products are our Blackberry Macarons. We make a delicious, silky-smooth milk chocolate ganache and then pipe that wonderful blackberry jelly in the middle to make a stunning flavour combination.
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