The arrival of ripening blackberries is a strong marker of the seasonal transition from Summer into Autumn. These luscious, edible wild fruits grow on bramble bushes virtually anywhere – next time you drive past a roadside hedge, have a look out for them. They also love meadows, forests, many parts of the coastal path, and even your own back garden if you’re lucky.
I am of course talking about the truly wild kind of blackberries. Those big, fat ones that you find in supermarkets are usually farmed. And there is something far more satisfying about foraging for, and harvesting, your own haul of anything. In fact, blackberry picking has become a bit of an annual tradition in the UK.
A good, ripe blackberry will be glossy, swollen, very deep purple in colour, and come away from the bush relatively easily when picked. Unless you’re looking for an instant snack, you’ll need to take some tupperware to collect them in, as blackberries are quite delicate and the juice will stain.
My boyfriend and I visited his grandparents’ meadow a couple of weeks ago, and collected two litres worth of blackberries in just over an hour. I only needed a few of them for my crumble, so I’ve frozen the rest while I decide what to make with them. Blackberry ice cream is the most tempting idea at the moment.
We also picked a few apples (aka the blackberry’s best friend) from the meadow – which altogether made for a very pleasant dessert during the week.
I make my crumble mixture with oats and demerara sugar for that extra crunch. Here’s my take on the classic…
1. Peel, core and roughly slice 300g of bramley apples. Put into a non-stick pan over a moderate heat with a tablespoon of demerara sugar and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Cook until they begin to soften, stirring occasionally to prevent them from catching.
2. Spread the cooked apple evenly into an ovenproof pie dish. Sprinkle over 115g of blackberries, flatten slightly with the back of a spoon and leave to cool whilst doing the next stage.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C.
4. Sift 120g of flour into a mixing bowl, add in 50g of demerara sugar, 50g of porridge oats, and 75g of unsalted butter chopped into pieces. Lightly rub all the ingredients together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs. If it feels too wet, add a little more flour.
5. Spoon the crumble mixture over the fruit, making sure all the fruit is covered edge to edge, and bake in the centre of the oven for about 30 minutes or until golden and bubbling.
Enjoy warm, with vanilla ice cream.