JP McMahon: How to make the most of blackberry season

We should teach our children what a blackberry looks like, tastes like, and how to cook it 

For blackberry jam, I always go with one part sugar to one part fruit, so a kilo of each. Photograph: iStock

For blackberry jam, I always go with one part sugar to one part fruit, so a kilo of each. Photograph: iStock

 

While it may have been a bad year for summer vegetables such as asparagus and peas (due to incredibly hot weather), it’s a bumper year for autumn fruits and vegetables. I can’t remember the last time I saw so many blackberries hovering around the hedgerows and back roads that still connect our tiny towns.

Blackberry picking is certainly not as popular as it used to be (even when I was a child it was on the wane). But that is not to say we cannot revive past traditions for future generations. With most of our kids (or grandkids) having their heads stuck in a smartphone, it would be a good time to teach them what a blackberry looks like, tastes like, and how to cook it. 

Blackberry picking may have been immortalised in Seamus Heaney’s eponymous poem, but the activity gained new traction on Twitter recently when The Twelve Hotel in Barna, Co Galway, offered children a free pizza for every kilo of blackberries dropped into the hotel.

Deluge

Though not expecting a deluge, they certainly got more than they were asking for, with children lined up with buckets of blackberries waiting in line for their pizza. I think they’re going to make a beautiful blackberry ice-cream, but you’ll have to check it out for yourself to be sure.

Blackberry and apple pie, blackberry jam, blackberry and beetroot chutney: these are just a few of the foodstuffs you can muster up with a bucket of blackberries. 

For blackberry jam, I always go with one part sugar to one part fruit, so a kilo of each. Cook them down, add a 100ml of gin and then boil until it reaches setting temperature (105 degrees). 

For the chutney, sweat some onions and garlic and then add a few handfuls of diced beetroot. At this point, you can also add spices, such as cinnamon or ginger. Cover with equal parts red wine, red wine vinegar and sugar. Simmer until the beetroot is soft and then fold in some blackberries. Season with salt and then pack into sterilised jars. They’ll do for Christmas presents.

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