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The Waki Way .co.uk - Living full-time in a motor home

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LIVING IN A MOTOR HOME: FAQ's

We always seem to get asked the same questions about living somewhat off grid in a motor home, to which the answers seem to spark a dozen more questions! So (to give our voices a rest!) here's the answers to our most frequently asked questions...

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Blackberries 

Most people can identify a bramble bush and I think it's safe to say that picking blackberries is most peoples first introduction to wild foraging and home baking.

If you're already familiar with the blackberry then you will also know its clothes staining power and the same goes for your hands. If you go blackberry picking on a Sunday, you may still be wearing it on Monday... don't worry it will wash off eventually, just be sure to wear old clothes or an apron when picking and processing your haul, this is definitely not the trip to wear your new favourite cream sweater in celebration of the Autumn season! ;) Use a light touch and gently twist the berry from its base so as not to crush them, and beware of those snagging thorns.

 

So you've returned home with a heavy load of delicious wild berries, what should you do with them? Firstly give them a good rinse in running water to get rid of any insects or other debris and remove any twigs or berries that look dried up or that have been affected by mould. Another tip if you want nice, whole, and un-bruised berries is to use smaller containers when gathering so the weight of the berries on top doesn't crush the delicate berries at the bottom.

 

As to recipes, blackberries lend a tart sweetness to all manner of baked goods, and do pair especially well with apples which can also be found at the same time of year. This may be a terrible thing to some of you to hear but - I'm really NOT a fan of crumble! Now through the power of blogging telepathy I can hear half of you sucking in breath in horror (how can she say that?!) and the other half are nodding encouragingly because you too agree that crumbles suck! Don't get me wrong, I will be doing some baking with my blackberries and, since blackberries are so wildly versatile I'll certainly be expanding this post with a lot more recipes in the future, however NONE of those recipes are going to be crumbles! If you are a crumble lover I'm guessing that you already have a tried and tested recipe anyway and are likely looking for more inspiration so here it comes...

 

You can use your haul to make epic antioxidant smoothies – just mix with your favourite dark skinned berries, fresh or from the freezer. My blender is currently on the blink so this yummy looking photo is courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.netimage courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net

Today's recipes to get us started are methods for longer term storage. See below for how to turn your blackberries into dried snacks popularly called fruit leather, and a sweet syrup for drizzling over ice cream, mixing into yogurt, or to enjoy as a simple cordial for mixing up some refreshingly wild drinks. Also see our jam recipe to preserve them as a dark and richly flavoured jam, which happens to be blooming brilliant with our super easy 'drop scones'!

I love that these recipes all start the same way, it keeps things simple. Tip your washed berries into a large heavy bottomed saucepan and add a splash of water, I emphasise a splash of water as the more you add – the more you'll need to boil away to avoid it tasting weak and well, watered down... Cover and simmer gently until the berries have softened and begin to collapse.

You may notice that this isn't a raw recipe and, although I like the idea behind the raw movement, in this case cooking the fruit kills mould spores that could otherwise ruin your lovely leather during the drying process and jam making requires cooking at a high temperature with sugar so there's really no avoiding it there! If you wish to have a go at making raw versions with your blender instead, be sure to keep them in the fridge and consume them within a week.


Blackberry and Apple fruit leather:

For an all blackberry recipe you could simply mash or blend your cooked berries (seeds and all) and spread the pulp onto dehydrating sheets or waxed paper and dry in your dehydrator or a low oven with the door ajar until, well, leathery to the touch. Personally though, I like how well blackberries go with the flavour of apples, and two fruits are better than one right? The fibrous nature of the apples also means that the pulp stays where you spread it better so no mess inside the dehydrator and, if you're a pip hater like me, can do without them altogether and just use the juice! Win win! :D

So firstly you need to turn your apples into a basic apple sauce/puree, to see how to do that click here. If you've already done that and stashed some away in the freezer, remove a couple of tubs and allow them to defrost.

Squish your cooked blackberries through a metal sieve or muslin bag to extract as much juice and pulp as you can whilst leaving those pesky seeds behind.

Once you have your blackberry juice/pulp, mix it with the apple puree. I won't give exact weights because in all likelihood we'll all have differing hauls to process, and frankly for this recipe it's not important to start with a certain amount. What I will say is to stick to around 3 cups of apple puree to 1 cup of blackberry pulp but use your own judgement to determine if it's the right consistency for spreading. Too thin and the mixture won't stay where you put it long enough to dry, and you'll end up with a sticky mess in the bottom of your dehydrator or oven! If you're not sure try dripping some onto a plate and tilt it, if it stays put then you're good...

Next, yep you guessed it, spread it onto non stick sheets approx ¼ inch thick. As it dries it shrinks dramatically until only a few millimetres thick – this is why a thick consistency is important! Dry at around 45-50 degrees (centigrade) for around 8 hours or until leathery with no remaining wet spots. Mine still had a few lumps of apple that the blender had missed (I said it wasn't behaving...!) but they dried in OK and don't seem to adversely affect the resulting leather. As it dries and shrinks I noticed that slight gaps can appear in some areas so I'd recommend checking it around halfway and smoothing them over with excess from thicker areas nearby, or spread it more evenly than me to begin with! ;)

When cooled, carefully peel from the non stick sheet and cut and roll your leather into handy portions of chewy, healthy 'candy'. If properly dried and stored in an airtight container in a dry place, your leather will keep for a couple of months – if you don't gnaw your way through it all before then anyway! 

Look at the amazing colour! Our window decoration says it all... ;)Look at the amazing colour! Our window decoration says it all... ;)

 

To turn your blackberries into a syrup or cordial follow the same process as for the Elderberry syrup:

Mash your blackberries just as for making leather, tip into a muslin bag or a sieve suspended over a bowl and allow the juice to drain freely – let it drip overnight if you can wait that long so you get as much as possible. If you want a nice and clear cordial resist the urge to squeeze the bag since it will cloud it with pulp, though I don't mind a bit of pulp and don't like wasting anything so squish away!

Measure the amount of juice you have and add 65-75% of the amount in sugar, approx 3-4 cup of sugar per 1 cup of juice. 

Boil until the sugar has dissolved and the solution has reduced in volume slightly, take care not to burn yourself with the hot syrup as it becomes much hotter than boiling water alone!

Add citric acid to help preserve the syrup at room temperature for up to a year. Once opened use within a couple of weeks or refrigerate for longer and as with all preserve recipes pay close attention to good kitchen hygiene and be sure to properly sterilise your bottles.

 

It's also worth noting that blackberries freeze really well, just tip them into a tub or freezer bag and pop into the freezer to be enjoyed later in the year, in fact it's exactly what I did with half of my haul this time! This makes them the perfect forage for those weekends where you have time to go on a nice walk and gather them but not enough time to process them straight away.

The idea of freezing them made me think of refreshing sorbets and adding frozen berries to drinks instead of ice cubes - I'm sure they'd be a great addition to a Pimms cocktail but I'll have to let you know another time...

 

Have you been blackberry picking before or will you be giving it a go now that you've read about it? We'd love to hear from you so share your thoughts or memories with us in the comments below!

 

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Apple & Blackberry Muffins

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About us:

My name is Sarah and in 2011 my husband Ryan and I decided to buy and re-fit an old motor home - we named it Waki and now live in it full time in the UK!

We live neither on or off-grid, rather somewhere in between, and are not the first and I dare say not the last to choose this way of life... read more>> 

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