Nobody in the lane, and nothing, nothing but blackberries,
Blackberries on either side, though on the right mainly,
A blackberry alley, going down in hooks, and a sea
Somewhere at the end of it, heaving. Blackberries
Big as the ball of my thumb, and dumb as eyes
Ebon in the hedges, fat
With blue-red juices. These they squander on my fingers.
I had not asked for such a blood sisterhood; they must love me.
They accommodate themselves to my milkbottle, flattening their sides.
From Blackberrying by Sylvia Plath
Before leaving for uni, my son informed me that when I went back to walking the dog I wouldn’t have to worry about getting through the alley any more, because the local council had just carried out its annual chop back. Luckily their strimming did included all the vicious, burgeoning stinging nettles, but sadly nothing over knee height. This meant that while my legs were safe, my head was still under attack. Brambles have scrambled up and over the hawthorn bushes and are now cascading to the ground in a very divide-and-conquer fashion. At each of the wooden bridges over the ditches the brambles have taken on the appearance of those beaded door curtains.
I’ve spent a week dodging and bending the worst offenders out of the way, but when the winds got up the other day things got nasty and I decided that enough was enough. So next time took my secateaurs with me and spent a therapeutic hour do my civic duty. I was even thanked by a couple of runners whilst doing it.
Away from these acquisitive branches there are plenty of things to enjoying about brambles. They’ve flowered their little hearts out all summer long, have fed and provided shelter to a wide variety of insects and now are covered in shiny black fruits. (If you have ever seen a blackbird swallow a blackberry down you’ve seen what looks like pure enjoyment). In my hacking back along the alleyway I came across several thickets of glossy fruit, so I was able to take a reward.
I’ve alway loved apple and blackberry together: It was the first pie that I ever tried to make under my Mum’s tuition and much later, after final exams, it was apple and blackberry crumble and cream that we celebrated with.
However, it was only a year ago that I tried blackberry ice cream for the first time. It was wonderful, but the season was over and I couldn’t make it myself (OK strictly speaking I could have gone out and bought frozen fruit, but that defeats the point of blackberries. Foraging is the particular beauty of them – even in Bristol). I wasn’t doing so well this year either, until a friend pleaded that she required more freezer space and needed to shift several kilograms of blackberries she’d gathered. So I was the happy recipient of some of those and that meant that I got to make blackberry ice cream.
I don’t have an ice-cream maker, hence I looked up no churn methods. Here is what I did (because it was so lovely that I think everyone should at least be able to try it*):
Blackberry Ice Cream
- A can of condensed milk (roughly 400g)
- A pot of double cream (600ml)
- A teaspoon of vanilla essence
- Blackberries to purée and some to add whole – the amount is up to you but I used about 1/4 kg
The condensed milk contains the sugar normallly added to the fruit and prevents ice crystals growing in the ice cream as it freezes.
- Whip the condensed milk, vanilla extract and double cream until thick, but not completely stiff (a bit like clotted cream).
- Coarsely purée the blackberries (I mashed them with a fork, but if you don’t like pips then you could strain afterwards).
- Swirl the blackberry purée through the cream. Throw in a few whole fruits and mix in.
- Pour the mixture into your containers. (I re-used an ice cream carton and a loaf tin, lined with cling film).
I got the loaf tin out after 3 or 4 hours and tried a bit. It wasn’t completely set, but it was wasn’t far off and it was certainly tasty. A day later I tried a slice with stewed apple and blackberry.
I think I will try it with crumble next!
Do you have a favourite recipe for blackberries?
* Blackberries are terribly good for you. They are packed with antioxidants, including vitamin C and ellagic acid. Their many tiny seeds make them a good source of fibre.