Now that September is upon us and the first signs of cooler nights and dewier mornings is signaling the onset of autumn, we've been a bit busy gathering and storing our leeks, beetroot, tomatoes, shiso and other tempting delights that will make this winter so much more fun.
Down to business. One of the major harvests has actually come from our hedgerow—BLACKBERRIES—-kilos upon kilos of wild blackberries. Every other morning we've been heading up the hill to gather a few more precious sacks of blackberries. Since it would be tough to process so much fruit all at one go and still write for a living, we've had to freeze sacks of them so we can work on them over the free evenings and weekends.
TIP FOR FREEZING BERRIES: Lay them out on a freezer tray or baking pan lined with cling film. Spread the berries out so each one has space to freeze. Once they are freeze, it's easy to load them into airtight containers and store them until you are ready to play. We've done this successfully with our bumper crop of June strawberries, July blackcurrants, and now August/September blackberries.
RIPE FOR THE PICKING & PRESERVING: BLACKBERRIES
Now we know you've all read recipes for creme de mures [blackberry liqueur] that simply tell you to toss the blackberries into spirit and
let them macerate for months. Well, you'll never achieve the rich taste that you really desire until you've tried the recipe we've now used for both blackberries and blackcurrants [creme de cassis]
Combine 750 gr blackcurrants or blackberries and 750 ml good Bordeaux wine in a glass bowl. (We used a St Emilion this time.) Steep for 2 days. Puree the mixture in a blender and strain through a jelly bag into a large pot. Add 200 gr caster sugar for every 250 ml of liquid. Have patience. It takes time for the thick mixture to ooze through the muslin. Heat gently in a saucepan until the sugar is dissolved and then lower heat further until the liquid reduces slightly. Stir occasionally. Cool and then add 1 part Jerez-style brandy to 3 parts liquid. Bottle in sterile stopper bottles and age for at least 1 month.
A tip we picked up from River Cottage's High Fearnley-Whittingstall. Turn your sealed stopper bottles upside down while they are still hot. It helps to seal the contents even better.
The same goes for making cocktail cherries. Don't bother with the recipes that add chemicals to make your cocktail cherries more like marbles than succulent garnishes. We just put up a dozen jars of cocktail cherries that will age just in time for winter Manhattans. We got ours from the local farmers market because our cherry tree doesn't have a mate. (Yes, every boy cherry tree needs a neighbouring girl cherry tree if you want to have a tree full of cherries.)
Wash and pit 1 kilo Morello or Griot cherries. In a pot, combine 200 gr caster sugar, 250 ml water, 4 tsp lemon juice, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tsp vanilla extract, and a healthy pinch of grated nutmeg. Bring to a boil and then lower heat to medium. Add cherries and simmer for 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add 500 ml Luxardo maraschino liqueur. Cool. Place cherries in Kilner jars and pour liquid near to the top. Pour a thin layer of gin or vodka on top, seal. We put our sealed jars in a hot water bath for about 10 minutes to ensure a secure seal.
OXO makes a great olive pitter with a protective shield that is perfect for pitting cherries.
Back to processing the harvest. Our neighbours foraged up a few kilos of bullace plums. And they want a batch of creme de bullace. The question is: What wine or spirit should we use to macerate these little wild plums before we put them through their cooking paces? Stay tuned.