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Blackberries (Bramble)

Rubus fruticosus

Blackberries on a bramble bush - foraging recipesMost 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 haven't had prior introduction, look for a tangle of strong prickly vines climbing other plants, fences, and shrubs - or lacking that climbing its own tough older growth. Blackberry leaves are serrated, roughly oval and arranged in threes. The clustered berries develop in place of white flowers with five petals. 

 

TIPS: 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 cream sweater!

Use a light touch and gently twist the berry from its base so as not to crush them, and beware of those serious snagging prickles - even small ones hurt.

A final tip for nice, un-bruised berries is to use small containers when gathering so the weight of the ones above doesn't crush the berries at the bottom.

 

blackberries - foraging recipesWhat to do with them?

Firstly give them a good rinse in running water to get rid of insects/debris. Remove any berries that look dried up or affected by mould. 

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 baking with 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...

 

1. Eat them as they are! Combine them in a bowl with strawberries, redcurrents, blueberries and whatever else you have on hand along wit a dollop of thick yogurt - or cream and crumbled meringue if you're feeling fancy. 

2. Make some frankly epic antioxidant sbackmoothies – just mix with your favourite dark skinned berries, fresh or from the freezer.

3. Bake them into a loaf or muffins with this versatile and extremely popular recipe>

4. For longer term storage keep reading for how to turn your blackberries into the dried snack popularly called fruit leather, and also a sweet concentrated syrup/cordial for drizzling over ice cream, mixing into yogurt and milkshakes, or to enjoy diluted for some refreshingly wild drinks (that's #5).

6. Preserve them as a dark and richly flavoured jam, delicious with our super easy 'drop scones' or for a wild DIY yogurt fruit 'corner' filling snack!

 

Step 1 for preserving: cook your blackberries until soft...I love that both the leather and cordial recipes start the same way; 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... Cover and simmer gently until the berries have softened and begin to collapse.

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 recipe:

Blackberry & Apple fruit leather recipe - foraging recipesFor 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.

pre-made apple sauce1. 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.

2. 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.

blackberry & apple puree - fruit leather recipe3. 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 briefly tilt it, if it pretty much stays put then you're good...

dehydrating blackberry & apple puree - fruit leather recipe4. 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 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 to begin with!

blackberry & apple fruit leather - foraging recipe5. When cooled, carefully peel from the non stick sheet, cut and roll your leather into portions of chewy, healthy 'candy'. Stored in an airtight container in a cool and dry place, your leather will keep for a couple of months or even a year. 

 

Blackberry Cordial/Syrup:

(Check out the Elderberry syrup page for more bottling tips etc.)

straining cooked blackberries - cordial/syrup recipe1. Mash your cooked 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 it cloudy and certainly don't like wasting anything hard earned so squish away!

2. 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. 

3. 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!blackberry cordial/syrup - foraging recipes

4. 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? 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 recipe - foraging recipes


Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more


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