Posts Tagged With: blackberry

Homemade Blackberry Vinegar – Free Food!

Blackberries.  You can't escape them in Autumn!

Blackberries. You can’t escape them in Autumn!

Its that time of year, when blackberries are everywhere and we need inspiration outside crumbles and cakes.  Jane and I try to pick as many as possible, although sometimes its a thankless task.  They are not the easiest fruits to harvest (especially wearing shorts!)  Braving all those thorns is well worth it though.  Blackberries are one of my favourite berries and so versatile.  Vinegar may not be the most obvious way to use them but turning fruit into vinegar is wonderfully simple and the best thing about it is, they last for an age. Perfect for preserving our seasonal berry gluts.  Fruit vinegar is also quite an expense in the shops so you’re saving a few pennies.

REASONS TO GO BLACKBERRY PICKING

  1. Once you’re out there, it’s actually loads of fun!
  2. Eating blackberries makes our brains work better and also make our skin look younger.
  3. They are FREE!
  4. You can use the leaves of the blackberry plant.  We dry them out and use them to make tea.  The most tender leaves work best.

FREE-STYLE FORAGER

Its a good idea to have some bags or punnets in your car, when you see a blackberry hot spot, you can leap out and share in the wealth.  You can also arrange a family/ group of friends collective forage.  This means you can prepare vinegar or blackberry jams or compotes together in big pans.  This works out more cost effective and there is something very rewarding about a jar of homemade, foraged jam in the heart of winter.  Full of good memories and nutritional vitality.

Blackberry vinegar can be used in salad dressing or drank with some hot water (think a hot cordial) for a vitamin boost on a cold autumn day. You may also like to try roasting beetroots with the vinegar, similar to when we use balsamic vinegar in roasting roots. The results are delicious and are all the more satisfying because you made it! For free! From the hedgerow!!

So get out there with your punnets (or buckets).  Free berries for all!  That’s (almost) free food!

Beach House Blackberries

Beach House Blackberries

The Bits – Makes roughly 300ml Vinegar

250g blackberries
125ml white wine vinegar
150g unrefined light brown sugar

Do It

Soak blackberries in vinegar for 5 day to 1 week. The longer you leave them, the more concentrated the flavour. We left ours for 10 days.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

You can use a sieve to support the muslin if you choose to lightly press the blackberries.

Strain using muslin. You can either leave hanging above a vessel for 12 hours or pass through the muslin. The blackberry pulp left over should be relatively dry.

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Add the vinegar and sugar to a saucepan and bring gently to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes stirring regularly. The sugar should be completely combined with the vinegar.

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Leave the vinegar to cool and the store in a clean bottle with a decent cork/lid.

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Bottle it up and enjoy!

Foodie Fact

Blackberries are high in vitamin C and the very dark colour of blackberries means lots of anti-oxidants.  One of the highest in fruit.  The high tannin content of blackberries helps with intestinal inflammation, it has a soothing effect.  The high vitamin K content in blackberries is said to regulate menstruation and aids in muscle relaxation.

Categories: Autumn, Foraging, Healthy Living, Nutrition, Recipes, Vegan, Wild food | Tags: , , , , | 11 Comments

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Jelly Tart

 

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Quick Blackberry and Rowan Tart

Following on from the ‘Simple Blackberry Compote‘, we take the next reasonably logical step, the ‘Quick Blackberry Tart’.  The Beach House is beginning to resemble mound of blackberries at the minute, our garden and the neighbouring horse fields are a sea of green with many purple patches.  Forgive us for our bramble based indulgence, but they’re so tasty.  It seems that horse muck is the ideal breeding ground for giant blackberries, although horse manure seems to benefit all plant life, our tomatoes definitely appreciate it.  Even though our neighbouring horses are a little wild and aloof, we thank them for producing their fertile goods.

As with the compote, cooking rarely gets easier than this.  Three ingredients and minimal fuss make this the perfect last minute/ lazy moment dessert.  It is of course, greater than the sum of its parts and is one of those recipes that punches well above its weight (not sure if that analogy is particularly Beach House-ified!)  I use frozen puff pastry for very obvious reasons, any brave soul who attempts to make their own puff pastry cannot be described as ‘lazy’ in anyway.  Its quite a labour intensive process involving advanced folding and rolling techniques.  I have made a type of parantha that is similar, but a parantha is a very forgiving format (like a fat flaky chappati).  Puff pastry is something we have in the freezer and use when our folsk visit, they all seem to love a bit of crumbly dough.  Dad is here at the minute and he approved of this tart, eating the leftovers for lunch which is not a bad sign.

The rowan jelly has been kicking around our fridge for a while and this tart is the perfect home for it.  We have plenty of rowan berries and elderberries loitering around the Beach House and we are planning on a mass harvest very soon.  Hopefully next year we’ll have homemade rowan berry jams to sample and probably whack in a cake/ tart.

There are so many differing ways that you can take this tart.  The astringent rowan here works well with the sweet blackberries, our berries were very sweet and you may like to add a little more sweet jam/ jelly if you have a batch of more tart fruits.  Once you’ve made the base, you choose the toppings.  Something like a pizza desert.  This recipe is simply what was to hand, seasonal and looking good. We’ve had it with apples and marmalade, strawberries and cashew cream, plums and star anise, pear and cinnamon, banana and custard……the list goes on.  All of them simple and very quick to get together.

The pastry base is best blind baked, depending on the tart filling, the pastry may seem ever so slightly soggy in the very middle.  It is cooked and is just a result of the liquid wetting the pastry and having something like a steaming effect.  Think a Chinese dumpling as opposed to a pasty (like a Jamaican Pattie).  The combination of soft middle and flaky outside only adds to the textural fun.

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Beach House Potato Patch (looking a little sorry for itself after a serious blight infestation, theres always next year!)

The Bits – For 4

250g block of puff pastry (frozen is much easier)

6 big handfuls of blackberries (or as needed)

4 tbs rowan jelly (or other fruit jam)

 

1-2 teas vegetable oil

 

Do It

On a lightly oiled surface, using a rolling pin, roll out your pastry in a roughly rectangular shape.  Flipping it over a few times, whilst rolling, giving the  pastry a good even thickness and light coating of oil.

Place on a baking parchment and give it another few rolls.  Score a 1 inch border around the edge of the pastry by running the tip of a knife around.  Cut roughly 1/2 way through the pastry with a sharp knife.  Poke the base (not the border) a few times with a fork, this will lessen the rising.

Preheat an oven to 180oC and when warm, pop in the tart base bake for 12 minutes.  Until lightly golden and well risen.   Press the base of the tart down, leaving the border slightly raised.  Spoon in and spread the jelly/ jam and scatter over a good layer of berries, packing them in tightly.  Place back in the oven and bake for a further 15-20 minutes, until the border is dark and golden and the fruit is soft.  Leave to cool for 10 minutes and serve warm.  You know your oven, if its not a boss fan oven, then flip the tart around halfway through cooking to balance the bake.

The tart fresh out of the oven

The tart fresh out of the oven

Serve

Dad is here, we had custard!!!  There is hardly any difference between normal custard and vegan custard, try making custard with almond milk, its extra yum!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Jane and Dad getting stuck in!

Foodie Fact

Rowan berries grow all over the UK and can be seen a mile off due to their vivid red colour.  These berries have long been regarded as fantastic for health; they boost the immune system, help the digestive system, prevent certain cancers and reduce bacteria infections.   They also make a very tasty jam.

These little red suckers are packed full of vitamin C and fibre and also contain a very powerful blend of antioxidants (aka disease fighters).

Do not eat rowan berries without cooking or freezing them for a decent period of time, they are quite toxic.  They contain what is called parasorbic acid, which is no good, but when heated or frozen this acid transforms into sorbic acid, which the body loves.  Rowan berries are technically a ‘superfood’ that lives on our doorstep.  They can also make for a potent and eye popping liqueur!  (Isn’t that what they call the best of both worlds!!!?)

Rowan berries are one of the many hedgrerow goodies that seem to be overlooked.  I don’t think it will be long until many more folk are out there at this time of year, harvesting the bounty of fruits and leaves that are springing out of our hedgrerows, many boasting fabulous health giving properties and a diversity of flavours and textures.

Categories: Baking, Desserts, Recipes, Vegan | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Simple Blackberry Compote and Tips on Berry Foraging

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

The BHK bumper blackberry crop

We decided to let our brambles run wild this year, the back of the garden has sprung into a thorny, berry heaven.  Brambles are so prolific and need no encouraging to take over the joint!  We’ve had a bumper crop with kilos of blackberries flying into the kitchen and looking for a home.  I like what the brambles have done to the nether regions of our garden, creating a home for all sorts of cool creepy crawlies and a decent amount of little mice, which are big friends to our developing garden.

On our green and good isle, Britain, we are enjoying a good start to September, the extra rays of sunlight are resulting in some massive, succulent blackberries, so we’ve been making chutneys, wine (this recipe will no doubt appear here soon) and compotes/ jams. We are nicely stocked for the upcoming Christmas/ birthday present-athon. What better gift than a spicy chutney?

Blackberries are such a bountiful autumnal bonus and along with elderberries, are two of my favourite fruity treats. This is such an abundant time of year, it seems like all the warm weather we’ve had this year has come to fruition. Its hanging from almost every bush! It makes all that messing around with soil and late night slug raids on the veg patch worth while. We can eat from the land and there are few things more satisfying than a fruit salad made from you’re own (British!) garden.

Berry foraging bonus - fresh lavender smells around the house

Berry foraging bonus – fresh lavender smells around the house

Blackberries are native to Northern Europe and they grow as far north as Siberia!  Our berries, like most, just run wild all over the place.  You can be more organised and precise and run them up trellises etc.  But thats proper gardeners territory and we’re not there yet.

When making this compote, it will rarely get easier when playing with pots and pans. Two ingredients and a little heat, a jar and a cool place.  All you need for a knockout compote.  We took this in what is known as a ‘sugar free’ direction as a friend was visiting who is avoiding the heinous white powder.  A sprinkle of dates sorts out all of our sweet tooth requirements and also brings a thicker texture to the party.  Taste the compote after 5 minutes bubbling on the hob and add more dates if not quite sweet enough.  We are not sure how long it will last in the fridge, this compote is not made as a ‘preserve’ but should be eaten soon after cooking.  We’ve had a huge pot in the fridge now for over three weeks and its fine.  I did think that the reduced sugar content would shorten its life, but its still soldiering on.

Good blackberries are essential for this type of embellishment free behaviour, raid you local hedgerow to find the finest blackberries.  You will probably have a nice time too, just avoid those vicious thorns and if picking on a road, avoid speeding buses!

TOP TIPS FOR BERRY FORAGING

–  Never pick anything edible around train tracks, they regularly spray chemicals around the tracks to stop weeds growing.  Never pick berries that are cocked dog leg height, for obvious reasons.

–  Be careful not to squash berries when picking them, if you do, we suggest popping them into your mouth.  Try to keep your hands clean when picking fruit, the occasional scoff is very hard to resist (and all part of the fun).

–  Only pick berries that are plump and soft, the ones that fall off in your hand.  If you have to tug it, it ain’t ready for munching.  Leave if for a few days and then go back for it (blackberries grow and ripen quickly).

–  Use the berries straight away, that day.  If they look dirty, or you don’t fancy wild berry munching, submerge berries in cold water when you get home, give them a swish around and then leave them to drain, laying them out on kitchen paper when ready.  Handle them very gently, until they are dry-ish.  Then pop in the fridge covered loosely.  This works for us.  But as mentioned, the sooner they disappear into happy bellies, the better.

–  When picking blackberries, look at the white bit (where the stem should be), this is where maggots reside.  If there are maggots hanging out, ditch the berry on the ground and continue undeterred.

–  Don’t wear your new white shirt or trousers.

The Bits – Makes 2 regular jam jars 

800g freshly picked blackberries

2 big handfuls of chopped dates (to taste)

Do It

In a large, heavy bottomed pan, add the blackerries and dates, bring slowly to a boil and leave to simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the berries have broken down.  Stir regularly, do not allow the base or edges of the compote to catch and burn.

Very easy Blackberry Compote

Very easy Blackberry Compote with some Rye Bread

Serve

The resulting deep purple gorgeous-ness can be spread on warm toast with soya yoghurt or with chopped bananas and nut butter.  Very pleasant when spooned over your morning bowl of muesli or even frozen and made into a sorbet (we haven’t tried this yet).  You could also make a wonderful dressing with it, by adding balsamic vinegar and a touch of oil and seasoning.

Foodie Fact

Blackberries contain a low-calorie sugar substitute called Xylitol, which is low GI, meaning slow absorption into the blood stream.  Blackberries are high in fibre and are full, full, full of antioxidants like vitamin C and chemicals called phenolic flavanoids (good guys).

See below for the physical after effects of a days blackberry picking.

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Jane on Aberdaron beach yesterday, full of blackberries!

Categories: Foraging, Recipes, Wild food | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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