Seasonal cooking: Bountiful blackberries - something alcoholic, something savoury, and dessert.
Every autumn I don rubber gloves, a long sleeved top and sturdy shoes and brave the bridle-way at the back of our house to pick the wild blackberries. Even with protection, there are usually a few scratches and nettle stings gained as part of the harvest. I think it's worth it though.
Here are some of my favourite things to make with these fabulous fruits.
Crème de mûre (Blackberry liqueur)
This is simplicity itself to make. I love a bit of this topped up with sparkling wine.
75cl decent red wine (Do not buy cooking wine!)
Large glass of vodka or gin
Pick over the blackberries and remove any stalks or leaves.
Tip into a large ceramic or glass bowl and pour over the wine.
Use a potato masher to crush the fruit into the wine.
Cover with a tea towel and leave to macerate in a cool place for 2 days, mashing occasionally.
Pour the mixture through a plastic sieve, then pass again through the sieve or a colander lined with a square of muslin to remove any bits.
Tip the juice into a pan and add the sugar. Heat gently, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for 5 mins.
Leave to cool, this is important or you'll burn off the alcohol. then stir in the vodka or gin.
Using a small jug, pour into bottles, then seal and label. It’s ready to use straight away. Store in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
I'm very cautious not to make this too sweet, I want it to be a flavoured gin, not a liqueur. By adding sugar syrup after the maceration I can control the sweetness.
70cl gin (don't buy the very cheap stuff, but you don't have to use craft gin for this)
50g caster sugar
Sugar syrup to taste
Tip the blackberries and sugar into a 1.5-litre sterilised jar.
Pour over the gin, seal the jar and swirl around to dissolve the sugar.
Store in a cool, dark place and turn the jar once a day for the first week.
After two-three weeks, strain the gin through a sieve. I usually give a second strain through a muslin or coffee filter.
Taste, and add sugar syrup if required.
Pour the gin into bottles, and label. The gin will keep its colour for a few months and will be drinkable for up to a year. To be honest, mine from last year is still fine.
Use the infused blackberries in a cocktail like a bramble, or in a trifle, or with apples in a boozy crumble.
Venison with blackberry sauce
This is a gorgeous recipe from our friend Mandy at Wine with Food. I think that with the addition of star anise and a little five spice this would also be great with duck.
Summer berry filo tartlets
I adapted this from a Gordon Ramsey recipe that made the filo into horns and stuffed them with the berry cream (he doesn't use blackberries, just the raspberries and strawberries). I don't know about you, but I don't happen to have cream horn moulds idling in my kitchen cupboards, so I used some tart bases instead.
Packet of filo pastry
100g melted butter
2 tablespoons of sifted icing sugar
125ml crème fraiche
200ml double cream
Plus fresh berries and a blackberry coulis to serve.
Pre-heat the oven to 190C.
Lightly butter your tartlet tins.
Cut out twelve 12cm squares from the filo.
Brush one with butter, and dust it with icing sugar.
Place in the case and add another 2 squares.
Bake until golden brown - you need to keep a close eye on them, so start checking from 5 minutes onwards. Place on a wire rack and cool.
Put the berries in a bowl and crush them with a fork, and add the icing sugar to taste.
In another bowl, beat the mascarpone, crème fraiche and double cream together.
Fold in the berry crush.
Gently place in your filo tartlet case.
Serve with some fresh berries and the blackberry coulis.
For the blackberry coulis:
50g golden caster sugar
squeeze vanilla bean paste
Put the blackberries, sugar and water into a small pan and bring to the boil. Simmer until the fruit is soft.
Stir in the vanilla paste and then cool
Blend and then pass through a sieve using the back of a ladle to push the juice through.
Any you don't use will happily freeze.
I hope that this has inspired you to go outside and get foraging for blackberries before they've gone!