Black me up baby

Blackberrying is a great way to keep la offspring entertained on a warm autumnal Sunday afternoon, grab yourself a basket – if your feeling twee, or a plastic box/bag if your not – jump on your bikes and get the troops into this fine crispy, sunny weather of September.
Children adore picking blackberries – not only do they get to stuff their faces with sweet, black bejeweled treats they also unite with their family to collect goodies for everyone to enjoy. It’s a win win situation.
Once home the possibilities of what to do with your glut of free hedgerow booty are enormous – the one tip is to act fast – (blackberries don’t keep, but they do freeze like a dream).
Apple and Blackberry crumble anyone? With a fat blob of golden clotted cream, or a scoop of indulgent vanilla ice-cream to melt over it? How about throwing them into a blender with bananas, natural yogurt, a squirt of honey, a splash of milk or soya and some ice – whizz it up, serve in tall glasses with a straw and feel, utterly, virtuous.
For my family though, the ultimate result with these juicy babies is to make blackberry and apple jelly. An Autumnal delight of sweet, translucent scarlet, that has seen me this week constantly dashing to the bakers to buy bread so that I, well, we – ahem – can continue to hoover it up without actually having to resort to sticking a spoon in the jar and sucking on that, which, believe me, I have been pushed to do on several occasions.
This jam is without doubt the best jam in town, bar raspberry – just. It is incredibly easy to make and the taste captures the warmth and sweetness of these very English fruits. The one thing I would advise when making preserves is to make sure you have enough of that elusive ingredient…time.
Jelly is slightly more long-winded than jam – but it is worth it – and for children, and many adults too, the lack of seeds and actual fruit pulp makes this much more family-friendly.
Apple & Blackberry Jelly
A kilo of apples, roughly chopped
A kilo of blackberries
A kilo-ish of preserving sugar
Roughly chop your apples, the fresher the better, but fallen fruit is fine.  Throw them into your jam pan along with the berries and about 1.2litres of water. If you haven’t got enough berries – change the weights and make up the slack with more apples. This has been a bad year for berries and apples alike what with all that endless rain.
Gently simmer until the fruit is soft and squishy – about 20 minutes. Get your jelly-bag ready, the stand set-up. Very gently and slowly spoon the hot fruit mush into the jelly-bag – making sure you have a bowl or jug underneath to catch the juice. (I have on several occasions gone too fast with this and the bag has literally exploded sending boiling hot fruit all over the ceilings and walls – so be warned, go slowly and maybe add a few extra pegs to keep your bag attached safely to its stand.)
Leave the juice to collect over-night. Try to refrain from squeezing the fruit as it makes the liquid cloudy and you will loose that beautiful translucent scarlet look that makes this particular recipe stunning.
Measure the juice – depending on the quality of the fruit you should have just over a litre – hopefully 1.2 litres. For each 500ml-600ml of juice use about 450 or 500g of sugar.
Put the crimson liquid into the pan. Bring it gently to the boil – when it begins to get hot throw in the sugar and stir until the sugar has melted. Turn up the heat and boil hard for about 10 minutes – test the jelly for setting point using a saucer (store it in the freezer) if the jelly wrinkles when you push it on the cold plate – it is ready. Remove the jelly from the hob and fill up your hot sterilised jars immediately.
(I find the best way to sterilise jars is to wash them in hot soapy water then allow them to dry out completely in a warm oven. Take the hot jars out of the oven as you need to use each one and screw on the lid as quickly as you can.)
Et Voila! Your family-created beautiful apple and blackberry jelly. Bon Appetit!

As seen on Crumbs.


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