Blackberry vodka – the update

You may remember, way back in September

(oooh… almost sounds like the beginning of a cheesy Christmas song!)

No… I didn’t give you my heart or anything sloppy like that… I steeped blackberries in sugar and vodka – which, incidentally was A LOT more exciting!

Well, this week was the time to finish off the vodka and sample my concoction. The timing wasn’t specific – the whole thing’s taken around three months from start to finish.

What to do…

  1. Screw tops off bottles
  2. Sniff contents and have cheeky swig
  3. Empty bottles completely of blackberry and vodka
  4. Sample a blackberry
  5. Bample a couple more sackbarries
  6. Aim funnel onto cop of clean tottle
  7. Vest todka again
  8. Parefully core bodka into vottle
  9. Eat bum more slackberries
  10. Vaste todka again
  11. Squint to focus, crew sap on blottle
  12. One bore mackleberry for luck
  13. Have a lie down

What could be easier? I will definitely be using the original quantities again, because let me tell you – it’s blooming delumptious!

I’ve also kept the blackberries, as they are so infused with vodka-ey goodness,  it would be criminal to dump them. I may well transform them into a boozy jelly or upside-down cake.

As for the blackberry vodka? I’m just hoping it lasts until Christmas!

(hic!)

One glass

Berry good ideas for using up fruit

This article appeared in The Hinckley Times on 12 September, and came out of my recent post about Blackberry Jam and Blackberry Vodka

I’ve heard several reports that this year has been a great one for fruit, and on a recent walk out I discovered the proof was indeed in the pudding. Or the crumble. Or the pie really… Blackberries are growing in abundance around our local fields, hedgerows and jitties, so I decided to go foraging.

Learning from experience that a) brambles are lethally prickly and b) I may have to manoeuvre around dog doo, on went the long trousers, long-sleeved top and sensible shoes. Armed with a load of collecting bags, I was prepared for my mission and set off in the direction of the lane.

In no time at all – the branches were literally heaving with fruit – I had myself just over 2 Kilogrammes of lovely plump berries. Wanting to try something a bit different to a crumble, I opted for blackberry vodka and blackberry jam.

Blackberry vodka
You’ll need a 70cl bottle of cheap vodka, a clean, empty wine bottle with a screw top, sugar and blackberries.

Split the vodka between the two bottles, and put about 100g of sugar into each. Then simply plop blackberries into both bottles until they are full and screw on the lids. Put them in a cool dark place and about once a week, turn the bottles (think bell-ringer) so all the contents are well mixed. By Christmas, the berries should have infused into the vodka. Sieve and put the liquid back into just the vodka bottle. Enjoy!

 

Blackberry jam

Blackberry jam

Blackberry jam
The rest of the berries weighed 1.5 kilos and these went into a large cast iron pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes until the fruit is soft.

Add the same weight of sugar (1.5 kilos), a teaspoon of lemon juice and a sachet of pectin. (Pectin makes the jam set, and blackberries don’t contain much of it naturally).

Bring the whole lot to a rolling boil for about another 10 minutes. The jam has to get to a certain temperature in order to set, and you’ll know when that’s close as the boiling liquid will suddenly look calmer, appear glossier and less frothy. To test if it’s ready, take a tiny bit of the jam and put on a cool plate. It will form a skin if it’s ready: if not, boil for longer, testing at regular intervals.

The jars need to be sterile to store the jam, so these should be washed and rinsed thoroughly. Whist the jam is boiling put the jars and lids on a tray in the oven on a medium heat. When the jam’s ready, funnel it up to the neck of each jar and screw on the lids.

Extreme caution should be deployed at this point, as the jam is approximately the same temperature of the earth’s core, and the jars and lids will be red hot too.

So, for the price of a bottle of pop and a couple of bags of sugar, we will be enjoying blackberries right into the New Year.

The Hinckley Times 12 September 2013

The Hinckley Times 12 September 2013

Blackberry jam

Still wanting a recipe to use up that bag full of blackberries?

Look no further…

You will need:
Equal weights of blackberries and white sugar
A sachet of pectin
Pectin is the stuff that sets the jam – blackberries don’t contain much of it naturally
Enough clean, sterilised jars to store the finished product in

Jars
As a rough guide, 1.5 kilos of blackberries, when added to the 1.5 kilos of sugar will make enough jam to fill 6 standard-size jam jars. To sterilise the jars, wash and rinse thoroughly, and put the jars and lids on a tray in the oven at a medium heat. Leave them there whilst you’re making the jam.

Let’s start:
Put the berries into a large, cast iron pan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 8 minutes. The fruit should be soft.

Add the sugar and pectin, bring to the boil again, and let it do a rolling boil for about 10 minutes. Don’t stir.

The jam needs to reach a certain temperature to set – you’ll know when you’re near to that as the boil looks calmer, less frothy and will have less air bubbles. It also takes on a lovely glossy texture.

Test the jam for setting by taking out a small amount and putting it on a plate. If a skin begins to form, it’s ready.

Transfer the jam up to the neck of the hot jars. Exercise extreme caution as the jam will be at about the same temperature as the earth’s core at this point.

Seal the jars and label.

Blackberry jam 2

Blackberry vodka

With the abundance of blackberries around this year, and if you fancy a change from crumble, why not give this a whirl. Started now, it will be ready for Christmas.

You’ll need:
70cl bottle of cheap vodka
one clean empty wine bottle (screw top)
200g sugar
approx 700g blackberries

What to do:
Divide the vodka between the two bottles
Add 100g sugar to each bottle
plop the blackberries up to the top of both

Store in a cool dark place, and about once a week – making sure the lids are on securely – turn the bottles over to mix. Think bell-ringerand you’ll have cracked it.

The next step in the process can be found in Blackberry vodka – the update

Tarty blackberrying

There’s a quaint little lane that leads to a field  near where I live that’s like a megastore for blackberries… if you beat the crowd.

Last week, armed with our trusty bowl-within-a-bag, the youngest and I set off in search of treasure. The scene was idyllic: sun beating down; the farmer herding his cows in; the first ripe blackberries beginning to appear, and our small yapping dog tearing up and down the place, barking her head off.

We soon set to work collecting our hoard. Maybe we should have learned from last year’s adventure to wear slightly more bramble-proof clothing than 3/4 jeans and sandals – we’d forgotten how thorny the plants were, and how far you actually have to get your arm in there to retrieve the fruit. In no time at all, I was in there on my own, and the youngest (having the attention span of a knat) was playing with the dog, but very soon the bowl was looking rather healthy. We set off for home, with a plan to return in a week or so when the next lot would be ready.

Setting off back up the path, we bumped into the farmer, now finished from ‘cow duties’, and had a jolly old conversation about how the brambles could do with a bit of a trim, and how we’d be back shortly to collect some more. We’d been chatting about nothing in particular for about ten minutes, when he informed me that we had, in fact missed the best of the crop They were right at the bottom of the field – he’d seen them with his own eyes this very morning… With a cheeky smirk on his part, we bid farewell and I decided to trawl off back to the field for the secret haul.

The youngest, having XBox withdrawal symptoms (twitchy thumbs and wild eyes) carried on home, taking our noisy dog with him.

It was only when I reached the field that I noticed my shirt had unbuttoned itself way past the mark of decency. It must have been all the reaching in and out of bramble bushes. And it must have been like it for the past half hour or so.

The shame…

Extreme blackberrying down Rapey Lane

Rapey Lane used to be called ‘Holiday Lane’, as it is so far out of character for our village, you could actually be mistaken and think you were on a little holiday down there. Until my friend pointed out that its remoteness could mean you could easily be boshed on the head and left for dead… hence ‘Rapey Lane’ sort of stuck.

The 'haul'

Me and the 13 year old had spotted masses of blackberry bushes there when we last walked the dog, so off we went on the bikes to help ourselves to the pickings. In hindsight, perhaps I would not have worn my oldest summer shoes that have been through the wash so often they have no tread on the sole. I lost count how many times I nearly skidded headlong into the brambles/stingers, trying to slalom past the odd lump of dog doo that someone had kindly left behind.

Never go blackberrying in skiddy shoes

So – by the end of the excursion, my legs were cut to ribbons and my hands looked like I’d taken a crash course with Sweeney Todd.

Non-the-less, rather pleased with our haul, we put the carton of blackberries in the bike basket and headed for home. At the bottom of the lane it’s quite bumpy, and the first bump saw the lid of the carton dislodge slightly. Too late! The second bump came too quickly for action, and all the blackberries flew out of the container en masse. Lots were caught in the basket, but we lost a few brave comrades all over the lane.

The unlucky comrades

By the time we got home, the juice was oozing out of the basket, and the berries were looking  a bit ‘peaky’ to say the least, so we put them out of their misery and … voila… turned them into jam.

Jam