A day spent picking and cooking blackberries will always be a day well spent!
In September the hedgerows are heavy with sweet, ripe blackberries ready for the picking. Now is the perfect time to get out and enjoy them while they’re at their best. Head for your nearest footpath armed with a basket and gather as many blackberries as your sticky, purple-stained hands can manage.
You don’t have to be in the countryside to find blackberries.
You’ll find them in the unlikeliest places – the end of your garden, round the back of some old garages or down a footpath just out of a city or town. The blackberry bushes in my photos are all down a footpath just minutes on foot from my town.
Forget your worries
It’s hard to worry about anything else in the world when you’re picking blackberries. Soon you’ll find your only concerns are whether you can stretch far enough to reach a high up branch, avoid the prickly brambles or find a dock leaf to soothe your nettle stings.
Gather enough for a crumble
I tend to get slightly obsessed with picking as many blackberries as I can, but really all you need is enough to make a crumble. See if you can scrump a cooking apple or two on your way home. It really helps to bulk up your crumble – plus blackberry and apple is the flavour of September.
How I make my favourite apple and blackberry crumble
- 500g of fruit: I used a mixture of cooking apples and blackberries
- 200g self raising flour
- 100g sugar
- 100g margarine or butter
Preheat your oven to 190˚C and grease a shallow pie dish
Wash your blackberries thoroughly removing any stalks or leaves. Peel your apples and chop into small 1cm pieces. Place both in your pie dish.
Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles fine breadcrumbs (I use my Kitchen Aid for this and it’s super fast). Then stir in the sugar. Sprinkle the crumble topping over the fruit and then pat down gently.
Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown.
If you’ve got enough blackberries, how about making some jam?
The blackberry season is so fleeting. Making a few jars of jam means you can enjoy the joys of September again and again, even on the grimmest winter’s day.
My jam making is never an exact science, but for blackberry jam I follow the basic rule: use the same weight of blackberries and preserving sugar.
So, on this walk I gathered 750g of blackberries. Once I washed them and thoroughly picked them over for stalk and leaves, I placed them in a jam pan with 300ml of cold water.
Bring to the boil then add 750g of preserving sugar (warmed slightly in the oven). Keep on a steady rolling boil until your jam reaches setting point.
The easiest way to check if it’s there yet is to place a few little saucers in the freezer. After ten mixtures of boiling place a little of your jam on a cold saucer. If it wrinkles slightly when pressed with your finger it’s set. If not, keep boiling and check again in another few minutes.
How long this process takes will depend on the size and shape of your jam pan. Mine always takes forever – this blackberry jam took a full twenty mixtures of boiling!
Once you’ve reached setting point, turn off the heat and leave your jam to cool before pouring into sterilised jars.
Jam making is always a case of trial and error…
Luckily blackberry jam is quite forgiving. Even if it goes a bit wrong and you don’t get it to set enough, you’ll be left with a jar of beautiful runny conserve which will bring glory to even the plainest bowl of yoghurt. Whenever this happens to me, I convince myself that I like it better like this anyway.