Thursday, 5 August 2010

Making blackberry and apple (bramble) jelly

I have made two batches of blackberry and apple jelly already, even though it's only early August. Because of the dry weather and sunshine, the blackberries are really good this year. I picked the ones on my allotment, then decided to fill the punnet with ones from the perimeter of the site. I got them home, weighed them, and found I had only 1lb, and the recipe called for 2lbs, so next day, I went to Small Pickards Field, which used to be allotments (and where Joe and Angelo and lots of others had plots before they were chucked off). They closed Small Pickards Field because some TV personality decided to build eco-friendly houses on the site, and Swindon Council, great lovers of gimmicks, fell for it. The houses never materialised.
When I got there, I found the gate padlocked and temporary fencing blocking all the gaps. Why? What harm was there in leaving the field accessible to children, and to adults who want to pick blackberries? But there has been a campaign to designate the site a village green, so I guess our stupid council didn't want to take any risks.
However, I made my way down the fence, and when I went through the woods by the stream to join the cycle path, I found a way into the field behind Small Pickards Field, and there were plenty of untouched blackberry bushes there, so I could easily fill my second punnet. (I got rained on at the same time, the first rain for ages, but it was too light to do much).
Anyhow, I had decided to make jelly, because wild blackberries are often full of crap, including maggots. I'd bought some cooking apples, and put one of those chopped up into the pan with 2lbs blackberries, well washed, and a quarter of a pint of water. You don't need to peel or core the apples: in fact, it's better if you don't because the pectin is in the peel. Then I simmered them until the apples were soft and I could mash them down with a potato masher.
One of the hard parts of making jelly is rigging up the jelly bag. I had some muslin I bought in Malmesbury a year ago, so I tied string to the corners of a large square of it, and hung it over my laundry basket, with a mixing bowl underneath it to catch the juice. Then you leave it to drip for at least a couple of hours. You must never squeeze it, because that makes the jelly cloudy.
When you've done that, you measure out 1lb of sugar to each pint of juice (this recipe gives approx. 1 pint of juice). Then you make it as you would jam by boiling till it sets. Then comes the hard part - getting it in those jars before it cools and without the scum. I did not succeed on either attempt, but the second was better than the first, so I guess it just takes lots of practice. But the jelly must be poured hot if you want a clear, consistent jelly. This recipe makes about 1.5 jars, so have a small jar ready in case there isn't sufficient for two big ones (you should do that anyway - I always have a small jar ready for the dregs, which I keep in my cupboard to taste occasionally, because I'm on a diet and am not eating bread and jam till after the Garden Show in September).

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