I love autumn. Love the crisp mornings and smoky dusks. Love the usually fine weather during the day. Love the colours changing and the nights drawing in. Most of all, though, I love the feast that Nature provides for us in the form of berries, nuts, fungi and other fruit. For the second day running, I’ve been out for a walk and come back clutching just under a kilo of fresh blackberries. In case you imagine me madly juggling purple handfuls, I am the sort of person who goes out for a walk with a couple of freezer bags stashed in my pocket for exactly this purpose. I know…. Seamus Heaney describes the joy of blackberrying beautifully in his poem, Blackberry Picking
“Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
This year, the abundance of berries is positively overwhelming. I live in a suburb of South Liverpool, not quite the Italian smallholding of my dreams, yet I can locate kilos of blackberries within a 10minute walk. The glory of the blackberry haul is a reason to be grateful for the moratorium on tidying up the edges of parks and cemeteries due to budget cuts. Good for us. Good for wildlife too. If you are out blackberrying this week, remember the forager’s rule: don’t pick it all, leave plenty for others, including wildlife to enjoy.
I turned my first kilo of blackberries into blackberry curd – a variation on a theme first explored this year using the lovely strawberries from Claremont Farm (see Strawberry Delight post). I plan to ask my neighbours (nicely) for a few of their apples, and make my favourite ever crumble – Apple and Blackberry with the rest.
400g blackberries, rinsed in cold water to remove any occupants and well drained
Juice and zest of 1 orange
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
500g caster sugar
200g unsalted butter
300ml of beaten free range eggs (about 5)
First whizz the blackberries in a food processor to make a puree. Add the juice and zest of the citrus fruits. In a microwavable bowl, combine the butter, sugar and blackberry mix. Heat in the microwave on full for 2 to 3 minutes until the butter has melted. Stir well and then pour in the beaten eggs. Microwave again on high, in bursts of 1 minute, stirring each time, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon (you should be able to run your finger down and leave a line). Pour the mixture through a sieve to remove the blackberry seeds, and any bits of cooked egg that may have sneaked through. Pot into hot sterilized jars and store in the fridge once cool. Use to top homemade scones, swirl into Greek style yogurt, fill a cake or just spoon onto toast.
Apple and Blackberry Crumble
400g blackberries, rinsed and drained
3 large cooking apples, peeled and sliced
175g demerara sugar
175g cold unsalted butter
100g demerara sugar
100g plain flour
125g rolled or jumbo oats
Preheat oven to 200C/180C fan/400F/ GM6
Toss the apple slices, blackberries and 175g of sugar together into a large pie or lasagne dish.
Cut butter into small chunks and then use the tip of your fingers to rub it into the topping mix of flour, oats and sugar until it all resembles breadcrumbs. Sprinkle this over the fruit in an even layer and bake for 45 minutes until the top is brown and the fruit is beginning to bubble through.
Let it cool for a few minutes, then serve with thick cream, custard or vanilla ice cream.