Gardener’s guide to gluts: Blackberries

I have fond recollections of foraging for blackberries with my maternal grandparents. They lived close to the coast and I remember wandering about in wellies, my fingers purple with the juice of the blackberries my sister and I ate as fast as the others could collect. We’d happily brave the thorns for the delicious berries that to us urban children seemed an almost magical apparition. We’d then head home with a carrier bag bulging with the berries and later we would enjoy another helping as pudding with vanilla ice cream. DSCF4037So when I had children, foraging for blackberries was something that I hoped I could do with them. There are blackberries on London commons, coated in dog wee and often snaffled by artisanal producers of whatever this year’s gin is, so imagine my glee upon leaving London for the countryside to find that our local area is groaning with blackberries. It’s made family walks really enjoyable (children can be fuelled on and bribed with fruit) and we’ve been enjoying cooking with our finds too. Although less sweet than raspberries, they’re still an earthy hit of sugar and a lovely wild ingredient. We’re planning to plant lots of blackberries in our edible native hedge when we finally get it going this winter but until then we’ll enjoy the footpath fruit. Here are ten things you can do with blackberries (technically I suppose this isn’t a glut as the birds will happily eat all you don’t pick but still, you’re likely to have more than you can use!):

  1. Eat them (obviously). As you pick them ideally, as you walk.
  2. Blackberry jam: I was going to go with the traditional WI recipe (what they don’t know about jam presumably isn’t worth knowing) but this jam hack recipe looks a lot easier
  3. Cakes: These lovely little blackberry muffins were made with a recipe from the River Cottage baby and toddler book, a firm favourite here at Land Girl towers. Blackberries are fantastic additions to cakes and I’ve substituted them for other berries DSCF4069
  4. Salad: Throw a few berries into a salad made with some deliciously caramelised squash and shallots, some goats cheese and some whole grains
  5. Blackberry sorbet: Not as sickly as some other berry sorbets, this makes a really nice palate cleanser. Remember to remove the pips!
  6. Blackberry vinegar: Easier than you can imagine, just sock the berries in cider vinegar for a week, then strain, and boil hard for 15 minutes in the same amount of sugar (so if you have 500ml of vinegar after straining, add 500g sugar).
  7. Baked apples and blackberries: Apple and blackberry pie is a classic autumnal pudding but by using baked apples you can enjoy the same taste with slightly less sugar. Take a baking apple per person and place in a ceramic dish once cored. Fill the centre with washed blackberries and a spoonful of honey (not for babies under one) and top with a knob of butter before baking for 20 minutes until soft and wrinkly.IMG_1485
  8. Blackberry porridge: Stir a handful of blackberries and a pinch of ground cinnamon into your morning porridge for a hearty warming breakfast
  9. Blackberry vodka: The whole world and his brother appear to be making small scale gins so I say buck the trend and instead decant a bottle of vodka and a large punnet of blackberries into a sterilised kilner jar with 200g of sugar (the berries aren’t that sweet) and leave for five days, shaking at least once a day. Strain through a muslin into another sterilised jar. Enjoy with ice.
  10. Blackberry cocktails: It’s been years since I’ve served a cocktail but I did work my way through university at a cocktail bar and a blackberry bramble has always been one of my favourites. Simply muddle gin, gomme (sugar syrup), blackberries and soda for a lovely long drink.

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We farm a three acre smallholding in Hampshire, England, having fled London in pursuit of the good life for our little family. We mess about with an assorted menagerie and try to be as self-sufficient as possible in meat and fruit and vegetables whilst enjoying our plot and an outdoors lifestyle with our son. I am the luckiest person that I know.

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