Sunday, 19 August 2012

Blackberry Jam....

Now.....not sure if this is a soft set...or a hard set....I guess you'll have to re-visit this in a few hours to see how it turned out.


Today's recipe - Blackberry Jam (seeds left in...perfer a bit of texture, rather than a smooth jelly)

  • 1 Kg of blackberries (picked last week, and frozen - so i just defrosted them on the hob and cooekd them to a pulp)
  • 1Kg of Jam Sugar (the silverspoon stuff with added pectin)
  • Lemon Juice
Cook the blackberries down until they are fully broken down and liquid.

(at this point, if you want to make a smooth seedless jelly rather than a jam - then you can rub through a fine sieve or leave to drip through muslin overnight, to get just the juice and use this instead....there are recipes (try Pam Corbin) for this)

without boiling, stir in the sugar and lemon juice, and make sure it all dissolves.

Do a taste test at this point too.  there are 2000 different varieties of blackberries and they all taste slightly differently.

This batch was made from the first flush of big juicy ones from a south facing hedge of brambles, so didn't need any more sweetening and they were even sweet to eat raw.

If you like it a bit more tart, adjust the sugar accordingly, but you may need to add some more pectin (throw in a chopped cooking apple, or powdered pectin as required)

If you like it sweeter, add more normal sugar, the pectin sugar will do it's bit, don't need to add more.

once you're happy with it, then turn the heat up, put a long sleeve top and gloves on to stop boiling jam from spitting all over your skin, stir continuously to stop it sticking and burning.

once it's on a full boil, then it should take about 4 minutes of boiling to reach the setting point.

if you want to stick a thermometer in to test it feel free, 104 degrees C is what you need to aim for, or just go by the feel of it, you notice it thickening once the setting point is reached, and have a chilled plate at the ready to test a blob of it on for setting.

remember it continues to set further as it it will always feel a little looser at jaring stage then it will actually turn out.

as soon as your happy with it, funnel it into pre-heated/sterilised jars, lid, and seal. long as you have enough pectin, and as long as you boil for 4 minutes, it will set to something between a soft set jelly, and a fully set jam - as the berries will always be slightly different each time, you'll rarely get the same result twice....but that's surely the fun of foraged produce.


Saturday, 18 August 2012

blackberry wine...

Having now picked about 10lbs of blackberries from our old favourite spot, and now a new favourite spot on the Greensands Way, we've put down our first batch of blackberry wine.

For the recipe we used, you will need:-

  • 4lb of fresh juicy blackberries (you can freeze them first so that when they thaw you get more juice out of them more easily)
  • 3lb of sugar

  • a big bucket to steep them in

  • a packet of wine yeast

  • 4 litres of water

  • juice of a lemon


place the blackberries in the bucket, and mush them with a potato masher

Add a litre of boiling water to the mush to help release the fruit juices from the pulp,

Add the sugar to the mush, the boiling water will help to dissolve the sugar

in a seperate bowl, mix 3 litres of cold water, the yeast, and the juice of the lemon

stir all together, put a lid on (or cover with a clean towel), and leave it to steep for three days in a warm place

On Day 4 - be prepared for the most wonderful alcohol heady aroma to be released from the bucket when you take the lid off!

strain the liquor from the bucket through a sterilised muslin/fine seive and then pour the strained liquor into a 4.5litre demi-john

now...when we did this, we ended up with about 6 litres of juice as the berries were so I guess you could use a bit less water, if you want a stronger wine, or a bit less blackberry if you want a lighter wine.
With the extra juice, I've bottled it in a pressure bottle, to make a side batch of early sparkling blackberry fizz (I'll release the pressure every few days to stop the bottles exploding)
put an airlock/bung on the demi-john, and leave in a dark corner until it stops fermenting - this could be anything from a week to a month.

what you do with it next is yours to decide.

If you want a more complex wine - then leave it "on it's leas" - i.e. in the demijohn with all the yeasty slurry for a few month before syphoning off and bottling.
If you want a quick and fruity wine - then syphon it off into bottles as soon as it stops fermenting
...and don't forget, if you want to add your own fizz to it when you syphon it off and bottle it, then drop half a tea-spoon of sugar into each bottle when bottling (but if you're going to do this, make sure they are swing topped pressure capable bottles....and make sure you release them slowly when you do drink them to release the pressure slowly (like you should with champagne)

Sunday, 12 August 2012

The Green Sands Way @ Linton

This evening's pre-dinner interlude was a stroll East out of Linton on the Green Sands Way through the grounds of Boughton'

Large, Delicious, Nutritious...and foragable....a giant puffball

However, the best view is south over the deer park.

Large, Deliciuos, Nutritious....and sadly not foragable..... :>)

Saturday, 11 August 2012 the bowlfull.

What better way to gather plums on a perfect, balmy August morning....than at the end of a 6 mile stroll across the Kent Downs.

Sit under a plum tree, and enjoy a handful of ripe fruits, pick a couple of bagfuls, then stroll back.

But be quick...

They appear to be ripening well in the sunshine, and won't be long before they start to fall.

perfectly ripe little red cherry plums will be the perfect addition to some greengages and blackberries for a hedgrow jam.

and the larger gage like yellow plums will be split and destoned, and combined with blackberries for a delicious baking dish full of hedgerow crumble :>)

 Fill your bags, fill your pie trays, and fill your jam jars to enjoy this little piece of late summer all year round.


Monday, 6 August 2012

The one mile blackberry challenge....

Blackberries and their many guises, brambles, etc must surely be everybody's first, and to some, their only foray into foraging.

I remember the railway sidings behind our school, carrier bags, stained fingers and clothes, in the early 1980's school holiday's, the screwed up face from the tart ones and sweet heady aroma of them baking in a crumble.

eat them raw, sugar them, warm them through, bake them, juice them, jam them, freeze and preserve them, ferment their juice, leather/jelly them, there's something different for every bagful you pick.

It is rumoured there are over 2000 individual species of bramble/blackberry - and you'll also notice that the closer they are to homes, gardens, allotments, and farm animals (and thus closer to a ready free supply of fertiliser from run off) the fatter and juicer they usually are, with the hedgerow ones being much smaller, later to ripen, and much planer in taste - but still perfect for sugaring up and baking with.

So I set you a challenge - even if you've never foraged before, that within a mile of your house, you can find a good bagful of blackberries between now and the middle of September - enough to at least make a good crumble, and a pot of hedgerow jam or two.


Sunday, 5 August 2012

North West to the South Downs - summer sea shore plants

Where better to spend the summer than by the sea...

Being from Cumbria we try and get back to Barrow-in-Furness as often as we can to see family and enjoy the peace beauty of Walney Island.

In season at present are the seed pods of Sea Kale.  quite rare in the south these days with the erosion of pebble beaches, but abundant all along the Lancs and Cumbria coasts of Morecambe Bay.

Another stunning plant at this time of year is Sea Holly.  but this is quite a rare plant these days, and the only part of it historically edible were the roots.  so on both counts, this should be left alone, but enjoyed for it's beauty. 

Back down south, we skipped down from the North Downs to the South Downs above Beachy Head.

Amazing that 350 miles makes such a difference to the coastal climate, from blustery wet north, to semi arid, almost Mediterranean south facing chalk downs, we get herbs. the wonderfully fragrant wild thyme, as well as large swathes of marjoram/oregano - all 3 now in flower so easily recognisable.

Herbs which are perfect to add to something robust and creamy like cauliflower gratin with home grown cauli's and freshly picked home made garlic.

Wherever you travel this summer, have a great holiday, and don't forget the scissors, and foraging bags.