Friday, 16 September 2011

Blackberry jelly: preserving the taste of late summer

The summer holidays have flown by and our daughter is now settling back into her school routine. The holidays were strangely punctuated by the riots and a deep sense of fear and unease. As it turned out, that particular week I had arranged to take Alice camping for a few days in Epping Forest, and it was with great relieve we drove out of London into the ancient woodlands. We were blessed with good weather and one of the activities we enjoyed was foraging for blackberries. It reminded me of my childhood in the north London suburbs when I used to go blackberrying in Epping Forest with my mother and grandmother on sunny September afternoons, my grandmother expertly hooking the upper branches with a walking stick to reach the ripest berries. Jars of jam and a freezer full of fruit pies helped preserve these harvests.

Our recent foray yielded such delicious fruit that I was determined to do it as much justice as possible and, having never made fruit jelly, I was keen to give it a go. Here is the recipe I used from Basic Basics: Jams, Preserves and Chutneys by Marguerite Patten.

Blackberry (bramble) jelly
900g blackberries
150ml water
lemon juice
caster sugar
You will also need a jelly bag or muslin and sterilised jam jars.

Wash the blackberries, put into a large pan with the water and simmer gently until very soft. Press the fruit from time to time to release the juice.

Strain through a jelly bag or muslin. For clear, pristine juice, it is important to allow it to strain as gently as possible. I left mine overnight.

Measure the juice and allow 450g sugar and 2 tablespoons lemon juice for each 600ml juice. Heat the juice, add the sugar and lemon juice and stir over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly until setting point is reached, checking frequently.

Pour the jelly into hot jars and seal down. You can see from the picture below that mine has quite a firm set. Next time I'll reduce the boiling time to try to get a softer result. However, it does taste wonderful – pure, vibrant flavour and jewel-like appearance. (Go the whole hog and serve it with farmhouse butter seasoned with crunchy sea salt.)

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