Hedgerow Bounty Part Two - Abundant Brambles

Autumn is one my favourite times of year. I love the colours as the leaves turn, the chilly mornings though the sun is shining, the smell of the leaves decaying and the abundant crops in the garden and free pickings in the hedgerows. Working as I do in the countryside I frequently spot something that can be picked and taken home to cook and keep us in jams, jellies, cakes, etc for quite some time, and when I freeze some, out of season too.

Brambles ready for picking

This week I came home with 2 3litre pots of brambles. Because of the hot and sunny summer we've had, the berries are huge, beautifully black and sweet but still with a bit of tartness. Although it cost me quite a few scratches and nettle stings to pick them it was worth it for the bonus fruit.

Once I had cleaned them up (not much cleaning is needed if you are thorough when you pick them) I weighed them out to help me decide what to make. 12 lbs of fruit eventually became 6 lbs of jam, 5 lbs in the freezer and 1 lb in a bramble and pear
cake. Brambles are not to everyones' taste. They can be quite tart, but make a wonderful accompaniment to apples or pears and are great for jam. The best way to freeze any soft fruit such as brambles, raspberries and strawberries is to lay the cleaned fruit on trays and freeze. Once frozen they can be weighed, bagged and stored in the freezer. I usually bag them in pound lots. This ensures the berries are more likely to stay whole once defrosted and not become a fruity mush.

On trays to be frozen

Bramble jam is tasty and easy to make and there is nothing nicer than toast and home-made jam for breakfast.

Bramble jam

6 lbs blackberries
5 fl oz water
juice of 2 lemons
6 lbs of sugar

Hull and pick over the berries; rinse and drain
carefully. Put in a pan with the water and
lemon juice.

Simmer until the berries are soft, then add the sugar and stir until dissolved.

Boil rapidly until it reaches setting point. There are two ways to identify this. Spoon a little onto a cold saucer. Once cooled a skin will form and will wrinkle if you push it. Alternatively stir the jam gently with a sugar thermometer and watch for it to reach 105 degrees Celsius or 220 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once it has reached setting point the jam can be spooned into sterilised jars and left to cool. Once cool put lids and labels on and enjoy through the winter.

Easter Mosshat Bramble Jam

There are cultivated thornless varieties, one of which I have growing here in the garden. Bramble 'Oregan Thornless' produces lovelybig berries with no pain when picking them! It makes a BIG plant so leave plenty room for it with some way of tying it in.

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