Blackberry season is here again
Making the most of our wild harvest
At the inevitable change of the seasons, summer’s heat changes to the gentler warmth of early autumn, and with it comes Nature’s bounty of fruit and nuts. Here in West Dorset, you’ll find hazelnuts, hips and haws, sloes, elderberries and blackberries aplenty. Early morning walks may even yield some field mushrooms if you know where to look in the dewy grass.
Wild blackberries (brambles) have an incomparable flavour, and are at their best now. What could be more redolent of childhood than spending an afternoon on the clifftops or along country lanes with a bowl to fill with shiny black fruits? With the sun on your back, and a gentle tingling from the inevitable brushes with nettles, enjoy the moment as you listen to the “ping” as each little berry falls into the bowl, and your fingers gradually redden with juice. Of course, you must sample a few as you go along, just to make sure! We spend far too much time rushing about, and a gentle contemplative activity like this is the perfect antidote to modern life, with the bonus of some foraged produce to enjoy at the end.
So, what will you make with your bounty? A quick rinse under the tap and a pick over to remove any stalks is usually enough to prepare your fruit for all sorts of delicious dishes. Blackberry and apple is a marriage made in heaven – so, blackberry and apple tart or crumble would be my first choice, served with some local clotted cream or icecream, or custard. Or you can stuff baking apples with them, or make a blackberry-flavoured gravy to have with lamb or game.
There’s a country saying that the Devil spits on blackberries at Michaelmas so you shouldn’t eat them after that, but I suspect that’s really because they get very pippy and flyblown late in the month, and aren’t that nice any more!
Recipé for blackberry and apple crumble
Here’s my recipe for a crumble (which I don’t like too sweet, so you may want to adjust the sugar):
Peel, core and cut up a couple of large cooking apples, and put them in a baking dish with about the same quantity of blackberries. Sprinkle with a tablespoon of sugar and one of water.
The amount of crumble you need depends on how wide your dish is, so I won’t give exact weights, but guesswork is fine! Weigh out enough flour (plain or SR) to cover the top by about 2cms, and then rub in about half the weight in butter (or margarine if you must!). Stir in about the same amount (as butter) of porridge oats, a teaspoon or two of cinnamon, and 2-3 tablespoons of soft brown sugar, and stir together well.
Tip the crumble mix on top of the fruit, and bake in a moderate oven (180°C/350°F/gas mark 4) until golden brown and starting to bubble round the edges. That will probably take about 45 minutes. Then enjoy!