The leaves are starting to turn yellow, there is a distinct nip in the early morning air and the supermarkets are already stacking their shelves with festive produce. However, despite the onset of autumn, we are enjoying something of an Indian summer and so it is an ideal time to go for a walk in the sunshine and pick some of the juicy blackberries that seem to grow in abundance everywhere. One of our lovely neighbours, Crimble, kindly typed up the recipe for her locally-renowned bramble jelly. Which means that we can all enjoy the fruits of the mellow season when the temperature plummets and we are huddling around the log fire toasting crumpets – just add butter and Crimble’s Bramble Jelly and you will be at peace with the world!
1. Pick bucket loads of blackberries. Blackberries freeze well so batches of fruit can be picked and frozen until you have enough to make a jam making session worthwhile. 6 – 8lbs is a good quantity.
2. Put the blackberries into a large saucepan with a little water. Boil gently until the fruit is soft and there is plenty of juice. In my Aga, I get the pan to the boil on the roasting plate then move to the simmering oven for an hour or two. Smash the fruit with a potato masher to get as much juice out as possible.
3. When the fruit has cooled a little pour into jelly bags (these can be made from muslin squares suspended from cupboards or chairs, you can also buy online here).
4. Leave the bags to drip overnight, try to avoid the temptation to squeeze the bag – this will ensure that the jelly remains clear.
5. Measure the juice into a jam pan, for each pint of juice add 1 pound of preserving sugar. Blackberries are very low in pectin (setting agent) so preserving or jam sugar will help to set the jelly, adding the juice of a lemon at this stage will also help with setting.
6. Place a small plate in the freezer.
7. Slowly bring the juice and sugar to the boil stirring all the time, when all the sugar has dissolved stop stirring and bring to a rolling boil. Using a jam thermometer keep boiling hard until the jam reaches 104 degrees.
8. To check for a set, take the plate out of the freezer and put a teaspoon of jelly onto it. Leave it to cool for a minute then push your finger through the middle of the puddle, if the surface wrinkles the jelly has reach setting point. If it is still a bit liquid keep boiling for 5 minutes and check again. Don’t loose heart at this point, it can take a while but it will set eventually.
9. Pour the jelly into warm sterile jars. Cover immediately with wax discs and a lid.
Enjoy with hot buttered toast and a well deserved cup of tea.
Don’t try to make too much jelly at once, a rule of thumb is; don’t fill your jam pan more than one third full, any more and the jelly won’t reach a high enough temperature to set before all the flavour has been boiled away.