Late summer is the time for foraging local bounty. I'm lucky to have something of a wild blackberry fence nearby which is wonderfully convenient. However, one of my fondest childhood memories is of my sister and I on bikes racing, recycled ice-cream containers buckled onto our carriers, in hot pursuit of untamed allotments and their spoils of war at the end of our street & beyond. An era before suburbs became perfect homogenous Pleasantvilles. When kids ran amok on bikes.
Diving deep into throned brambles was a lot like going into battle back then. But the result always worth it. We'd emerge victorious, berry stained + prickled with pregnant tubs sporting ill-fitted lids. Mum's happy face beaming over the enormous jam pan once we'd peddled our way back home.
Jam is not so much my thing these days. What I crave in summer are fun ways to hydrate. This recipe is great for kids of all sizes and much healthier than store bought options. It's delicious with still or sparkling water or as an ingredient in a vodka martini, or whatever else you want to invent.
2C raw sugar
A lemon or a couple of limes [I used both]
Citrus is the primary and most natural source for citric acid and preferable to use over the grocery packet version. But if you've got it in the pantry and no lemons on hand, then use it!
How I deal with ingredient quantity is to just gather as many blackberries as possible. Then add between a third to half of the amount of sugar depending on taste ie. 5C blackberries : 1 1/2 -2 1/2C sugar. Higher levels of sugar means it will last longer due to inhibiting microbial activity. Sugar is a natural preservative. A fine balance of limiting sugar and increasing shelf life. I keep mine in the fridge because it's a bespoke batch so figure less is fine.
Wash blackberries well under running water. Everyone else thinks they're delicious too, which invariably includes local caterpillars & spiders. I prefer to leave them off the menu! Return them back to where they came from to continue their good garden work.
Chuck blackberries and sugar in the pot over a slow heat. Stir gently. The sugar dissolves quickly to create a delicious compote. Try not to eat it all at this stage [difficult]. No need to add water; it's self-lubricating. Oooh err!
Add the freshly squeezed juice from your lemons or limes. This helps add preserve and souring power. If using powder from the packet, sprinkle now. Rule of thumb is add 1 teaspoon per lemon = 1/2C lemon juice in tartness. I pretty much wing these things. Taste buds are always the chief tester. Honour yours & alter amounts accordingly.
Stir it up! Let it simmer on the downlow for 20 minutes. Remove from heat.
Once it's not stupidly hot, strain [I reused the steel sieve from the original rinse]. Keep the pulp! We're going to use it in the next recipe. Nothing is wasted. Pour concentrated ambrosia into well sterilised bottles. Recycled glass kombucha bottles work really well. You can repurpose anything from pickle jars to sauce bottles of course. Just not plastic. We don't want two way leach and if storing out of the fridge it will have a longer life.
Use as thou wilt! I quickly moved onto shaken not stirred... A splash of vermouth added to 1 part vodka and another of squash... Add berries + lime. We're a long way from Bee Street now.