We have had a good year for blackberries. We have a thornless variety (with plenty of thorns ??) growing against the fence in our front garden which provides us with a plentiful supply of large blackberries from late August until now. These are best eaten fresh from the bush as you walk past or with a little ice cream. This year we also grew a plant called a fourberry (http://www.suttons.co.uk/Gardening/Fruit/Soft+Fruit/Other+Soft+Fruit/Fourberry+Black+Gem_274655.htm) which produces a large blackcurrant like fruit that is sweeter and juicer than a blackcurrant. This new, tart berry ripens around the same time and compliments the blackberry well,
Although the home grown blackberries get eaten fresh we love to pick wild blackberries from time to time as there are two favourite preserves I make to keep the memory of late summer days and the flavour of blackberries going through the rest of the year. You will need to pick a fair few but it is worth it.
This is so simple and simply delicious in a hip flask on a cold winters day watching rugby. Take enough washed blackberries to half fill a 2 litre Kilner jar. Add a litre of brandy (don't go using the best, a reasonably priced supermarket brand is ideal). Shake and place in an easy to reach cupboard as you will need to take it out every few days for a week or two to shake it. After two or three weeks, place it in a dark cupboard and leave it for about three months. You now need to strain it through a couple of layers of muslin. I normally strain it into another clean Kilner jar and leave it for a few more weeks (months is better as time improves the flavour) so that any remaining fruit sediment sinks to the bottom. Carefully pour off the blackberry brandy and sweeten with stock syrup to taste (I prefer mine without sweetening). Bottle and store in a dark place until you need a reminder of summer.
For the impatient, get yourself a sous vide. Place enought blackberries to fill a 1 litre ziplok cooking bag. Add as much brandy as you can get in to the bag and place in the sous vide at 60C for at least 2 hours. Strain, sweeten and bottle. Not as good as the one made in the traditional way but it might satisfy your taste until the three or 4 months of waiting for the good stuff are over.
First place a saucer in the fridge. Take at least two kilograms of washed blackberries and juice them. Weigh the juice and for every kilogram of juice add a kilogram of jam sugar (with pectin added) and the juice of 2 lemons. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer for 1 hour. Increase the heat to just under 220C. Check the set of the jelly on the saucer. It will be a very soft set but should crease when pushed. Bottle and store. I find this keeps really well until opened when it needs to be kept in the fridge.
This soft jelly is a perfect accompaniment for lamb or a good steak, seasoned with pepper and salt, seared in a very hot pan, rested and then drizzled with a teaspoon or two of this velvet sauce. It is also an easy way to lift a sauce or jus destined for a red meat course. Just add a teaspoon to the sauce to develop a rich and subtle fruit edge.
One final comment on this great free fruit. In Shakespear's day Lawyers were known as brambles. They catch you and hold on to you until they draw blood :)