Foragers make haste, blackberry season is here! That’s right, September has arrived & than can mean only one thing… blackberry picking! Britain’s hedgerows are currently gleaming with juicy berries, ripe for the picking (even better it’s free!).
The first blackberries will have already started to appear in late August but September & October are also great month for picking. Be warned though, English folk stories state that any blackberries picked after the month of September are best avoided as the devil is said to have urinated on them (lovely!). The more than likely truth behind this story though is that the damp weather would have spoiled most crops by October.
Hardly brambles thrive pretty much anywhere here in the UK, from woodlands & shrubbery to roadsides, canal paths & wasteland, blackberries are very common & not restricted to just rural areas.
Probably the most typically British late summer activity is joining your fellow foragers rooting though hedgerows with buckets, tupperware & plastic bags in tow. The seasoned forager will already have their preferred hunting ground for harvesting, having already sussed out where the most bountiful bushes are, so shop around before committing to an area. Look for blackberries that are shiny & firm when you pick them. Avoid bushes next to busy roads & never pick any fruit from the lower parts of the bush, these are at risk of being spoiled by dogs & other animals.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned (the hard way) when it comes to foraging these sweet little berries over the years, it’s firstly to wear appropriate clothing, brambles can catch not only your skin but also your clothing (avoid sandals, cardigans or shorts whatever you do!). Secondly, don’t turn into Violet Beauregarde! Blackberries do stain, both your clothing & your hands so take a pair of gloves or a wet wipe or two to clean yourself up.
I always take a tupperware container to collect my blackberries, it’s sturdy & easy enough to carry in & out of the brambles, but a plastic bag or a bowl will do just the same job. Whilst it’s safe to eat wild blackberries straight from the bush, you should wash them first. Simply place your bounty into a bowl of water with a pinch of salt & leave them for a few hours or overnight. This will get rid of any bug, maggots or little nasties hiding inside. Any rotten blackberries & bugs will float to the top of the bowl, simply skim these away & you’re blackberries are ready to use.
It’s almost become a tradition in my kitchen to turn my blackberry harvest into several jars of gloriously purple jam each year. This jam will see me through the winter & may or may not end up as gifts for people at around Christmas time (no it’s not too early to be prepared!). Spread on my toast or crumpets in the morning, this sweet, fruity jam full of blackberry pips can’t help but remind of me of the hazy sunshine of late summer days.
- 1kg blackberries
- 1kg granulated sugar
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Before beginning, place a small saucer into the freezer to chill
- Tip the blackberries, sugar, vanilla extract & lemon juice into a maslin pan or large heavy bottomed saucepan
- Gently heat the fruit & sugar over a low heat until the sugar has completely dissolved & no grains remain
- Add a sugar thermometer to the pan & bring the mixture to the boil
- Continue to boil the mixture until it reaches 102°C on the thermometer (about 5-10 minutes)
- Test to see if setting point has been reached by placing a small drop of the jam onto the chilled saucer
- Push your finger through the jam & if the surface wrinkles, it’s done. If not continue cooking for a further a few minutes & test again
- Leave the jam to cool for about 10 minutes
- Pot up into clean, sterilised jars & label
Check out my 12 step jam making guide for a little help with all things jam!