How to get rid of a blackberry glut: glackberry jam, gin and vinegar
A few months ago, I spent some with my other half at his mother's house. She'd crocked her leg, so we spent most of the time sitting down with her, chatting, having a glass of wine, watching TV and doing other such non-mobile activities.
Though other half's mum struggled to go too far due to her gammy knee, we managed to walk around the corner to a few blackberry bushes full of ripe fruit.
We gathered a few tubs between us. Huge tubs. More barrels than tubs. Huge, I tell you! HUGE! We filled two or three between us - an amount of fruit that would have cost £10 or £15 in the supermarket, all for free, courtesy of a friendly blackberry bush.
But when we got our black beauties home later that weekend, beyond cramming fistfuls into our mouths, I wasn't sure what to do with them. I mean, I've never had the luxury of wondering what to do with so much fruit before!
Not knowing how long it would be til I had that luxury again, I decided I needed to preserve the bounty as best I could.
First up, jam. I'm not an experienced jam maker, but I've done the whole boiling fruit and sugar and sticking it into jars thing before with other fruit and thought I'd give it a go with blackberries.
I couldn't quite get the blackberry jam to set, so I ended up adding a fair bit of sugar (jam is normally the same weight of fruit to sugar, I think, but I definitely went over that.) As you'd expect, the end result was a bit sweet, but so good on toast nonetheless.
Just look at the colour and thickness of this - yum!
That's not something that I've ever made before, however, so a quick trawl of the internet revealed the startling idea of adding some fruit to some vinegar and leaving it to steep for a while. Yep, tricky stuff, making fruit vinegar.
I couldn't really find a good suggestion for the optimal time to leave it to steep, so after two months, I bottled it. I'm looking forward to trying it in a dressing on some sharp winter greens.
But vinegar's all very well, but what's the best way of preserving vinegar that you can think of?
That's right - booze!
Booze is a bit of blank canvas. Take vodka, add something sweet. Take rum, add spices. Take gin, add tonic. Sorry, I meant, take gin, add fruit.
I love damson gin, so I figured blackberry gin must be a bit of a winner as well. It was pretty much the same deal as the vinegar: leave the fruit to steep in the gin, then strain it into a sterilised glass jar.
To make blackberry gin, just add roughly the same weight of sugar and fruit (around 250g or so) to a bottle of gin and leave the concoction in a dark place for three months to do its thing. (You can find the recipe I used here.)
Three months to own gin without drinking any seemed a bit tough to me, but I made it through, brave soldier that I am. I read somewhere that if you leave blackberries in alcohol for over three months, the booze goes bitter, so if you need an incentive to drink it up quicker, be my guest!
(At this point, you have to imagine the screen going fuzzy as we flash forward a couple of months, with me crouched over my keyboard, updating this post a few months later.)
I held off drinking that gin for the required three months and even managed to whip up some redcurrant gin in the meanwhile too. Check it out:
The blackberry gin was sweeter and richer of the two, its redcurrant sibling was sharper and a little less punchy. They're both great on their own or with tonic, but it's the blackberry booze that won me over most. Roll on the next blackberry season, I say!