Monthly Archives: August 2011

Hippies Hedge Jam

I hope you’ve been taking advantage of all that free food!  As promised, here’s our really easy Blackberry Jam recipe.

You will need:

  • BLACKBERRIES
  • Sugar.  The same weight of sugar as the weight of your fruit
  • A squirt of lemon juice
  • Clean empty jars

You can also add a couple of cooking apples for increased pectin to help the jam set, but I find our recipe works fine without them.

1.  First you need to sterilise your jars.  This can be easily done in the dishwasher if you have one.  Just stick them on a hot wash and they’ll be ready to use.  We don’t have a dishwasher so we sterilise ours by giving them a good wash in soapy water, then sticking them in the oven at 110°C / 225°F / gas mark ¼ for 45 mins.  Once the time is up, simply turn the oven off and leave them there until you are ready to use them.  Hot jam needs to be added to warm jars, otherwise the glass may break.

2.  Wash your blackberries and put them into a large heavy bottomed saucepan.  Turn up the heat!  Your jam needs to get hot, really hot, so make sure the pan isn’t too small.  You don’t want it to boil over.

3.  Mush the fruit and let it boil.  Lots.

4.  Heat your sugar.  It’s really important to warm up the sugar before you add it to the fruit.  If it’s cold it will cause the temperature to drop, resulting in sub-standard jam.  Pour your weighed out sugar into a roasting tray and put it into the oven for 10 mins at the same temperature as you sterilise your jars.  110°C / 225°F / gas mark 1/4

5.  Once the sugar is warm you can add it to the fruit.  Keep boiling and keep stirring until all the sugar is dissolved.

6.  To check if your jam is set, remove it from the heat and drop a small amount onto a cold saucer (it helps if it’s been in the fridge).  If the jam is ready it will form a skin which wrinkles when you push it with your finger.  Happy days!  If it’s still runny then return it to the heat and boil it up some more.

7.  Once your jam is achieving a good setting consistency it is done and ready to be bottled.  Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little by allowing it to stand for 10 minutes or so.

8.  There will most likely be a lot of foam on the top.  Now you don’t have to remove it, but I find that your jam will taste better if you do.  Take a large spoon and gradually skim it off.  Be careful not to burn yourself!

9.  Now your Blackberry jam is ready to be bottled.   Make sure those jars are still warm, you don’t want them to crack.  I find it easiest to ladle the jam into a Pyrex jug before pouring it into the bottles – it makes much less mess.  Label and date your jars and you are done.  Easy Blackberry jam!

Now you can eat it straight away, but it usually tastes better if you leave it 2 weeks to settle.  Once opened it’s best to keep your jam in the fridge, but we find it gets eaten so quickly it’s not too much of an issue.  It’s delicious on toast, in rice pudding or on homemade Soda Bread.  Happy jam making!


Good food for free…

I love this time of year! Not only are we starting to see the fruits of our labours on the veg plot, but there is also plenty of free food to be found in hedgerows and disused bits of land all across the country, just waiting to be picked by frugal living fanatics like myself.

I’m talking, of course, about delumptious Blackberries which have actually come into season a little bit early this year. I have so many happy memories of picking blackberries as a kid – roaming around the country lanes which surrounded the various houses we lived in throughout my childhood, and I love taking my own kids out to share the joy of foraging for free food.

We have already been out picking this year, even though it’s early August, and my youngest especially enjoyed helping herself to the scrumminess that is abundant in our hedgerows. OK we didn’t manage to bring enough home for jam just yet, too many of them went in her tummy, but if the weather holds we will have plenty of opportunities to go and get some more ready to preserve as jams, wines and good ol’ blackberry crumble and cus’.

I was, however, really surprised to learn that blackberry picking is a dying art especially in the current (no pun intended) economic climate. I can’t imagine not going out to pick blackberries during the summer, especially as they cost around £2.00 in Asda for a paltry 350g. They grow in hedgerows for Pete’s sake! Plus the ones you pick yourself taste so much nicer, and the abundant quantities mean you can make jars and jars of jam to keep you going through most of the year.

That article from The Telegraph is a couple of years old, and I’m guessing that as the recession continues to bite more and more people will be heading out with containers and taking advantage of what the season has to offer. The thing is, you don’t need to live in the countryside to take advantage of this particular crop. We live just 10mins walk from the city centre yet there are tonnes of blackberry picking sites within a couple of minutes walk from our house.

Now, I’m not going to give away my favourite spot, but if you live in an urban area then there are numerous places where you can pick blackberries. Disused railway lines, cycle paths or any bit of unused wasteland are usually full of bramble bushes with plenty of fruit, and of course they can also be found in woodlands and hedges too. I always carry some degradable freezer bags with me in a Wikaniko bag-tube so I can pick plenty of blackberries whenever I find them.

Bramble bushes grow prolifically even in stony, unfavourable ground and their branches will grow rapidly, forming a thick tangle of bushes in very little time. They are in season for quite a long time as well, as they start to fruit from July onwards here in the south.  Be warned, though. Don’t pick blackberries after Old Michealmas Day on the 11th of October. According to folklore these blackberries belong to the devil, and he marks his territory by peeing on them – nice!

Blackberries have been part of our diet and even culture since the Stone Age. Blackberry seeds were found in the stomach of a Neolithic man who was unearthed in Essex in 1911 and have played an important role in many Paganistic feasts and rituals throughout the years as blackberries were said to be sacred to the old deities. Blackberry bushes were often planted on graves to protect the deceased from the devil and they have also been used as charms to create wealth and as a cure for whooping cough, dysentery and even sore throats. (www.herbsociety.org.uk)

It seems our ancestors had a lot more common sense than modern society (no surprises there then). Blackberries are certainly a “super-food” They are exceptionally high in anti-oxidants, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Dietary fibre and Folic Acid and have an ORAC (oxygen radical absorbance capacity) of 5347 per 100g making them one of the highest ranking of available ORAC foods. Even the seeds, which some prefer not to eat, are very rich in Omega 3s amongst many other essential nutrients, which is why I never remove them when I’m making jam. (http://en.wikipedia.org)

Modern thought says that you should always wash your blackberries thoroughly before eating them as they can contain various moulds, mildews and maggots. Personally I’ve never worried too much about that, I figure that our bodies will cope happily with a few little micro-organisms and you just can’t beat the joy of eating them straight off the bush. By the time you boil them up for jam most of the nasties will be stopped in their tracks. I’m not a doctor though, so if in doubt take them home and wash them first.  Before I cook with them I do put my blackberries in a bowl full of water and add a teaspoon of salt. Just leave them there for a couple of hours and the bugs should be dealt with. Blackberries are best eaten fresh but you can easily freeze them to make delicious puds at a later date.

Get prepared for foraging with a Wikaniko Bag-Tube & some degradable freezer bags from www.wikid-eco-store.co.uk and make the most of some of the yummiest free food that nature provides.


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