I love the ritual of blackberry picking, time spent, basket in hand choosing the ripest juiciest fruit for dessert. When my children were small it was a family affair and a competition as to who could pick the most berries. Now I’ll take a friend and my dogs to forage and chatter. Is it me or is the season starting earlier and earlier each year? I guess that’s a whole other subject!
This week I have found a treasure trove of these fragrant berries. I say berries, despite their name they are an aggregate fruit – formed of individual drupelets held together by fine hairs. These particular blackberries were enormous and incredibly sweet, I had to wonder why as they were growing under a thick tree canopy, therefore largely shady and cool. My only conclusion was that growing slowly makes them all the more sweeter. As blackberries don’t ripen once picked, they should be harvested from the bramble when plump and deep in colour.
Not only are they a free foraged fruit, blackberries offer a whole host of health benefits. One of the top sources of antioxidants, high levels of vitamin C, E and K. Nothing not to like here!
I want to make the most of this years crop, utilising them in sweet and savoury dishes. Jams and crumbles are obvious choices however ice cream always goes down well in my house. Also simmering the berries in a few tablespoons of water (no sugar), pureeing and popping in the freezer gives you options to use in sauces for game or in a dessert.
I am starting off with pickling, excellent with game and as an accompaniment to a soft young cheese such as labneh.
- Kilner jar
- 350 g blackberries Freshly picked
- 160 ml red wine vinegar
- 160 m water
- 8 juniper berries
- 8 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 x ½ cm fresh ginger slices
- ½ orange the pared rind of
- 90 g granulated sugar
- 1 Tbls Maldon salt
- Place all the ingredients in a saucepan except the blackberries. Bring to a slow simmer and heat until the sugar and salt have dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.
- Gently rinse the blackberries and leave to drain for 15 minutes. Place the blackberries into a sterilised glass jar and pour over the pickling liquor. Make sure the blackberries are submerged, press down with a clean spoon if necessary. Store at room temperature for several days. They are now ready to use. Store in the fridge for 4-6 weeks.