So, after a long (and not particularly hot) summer, today is the first official day of autumn.
Early autumn is one of my favorite times of year - the colours, the conkers, the mist.. beautiful.
Autumn demands a new approach to cooking that takes full advantage of the abundant fruits, vegetables and meats that come into season. Right now the hedgerows are heavy with blackberries - delicious fruits and totally free.
I first went blackberry picking when I was five with my mum and for many years after that. As soon as little bro and sis were old enough they came too and then it became a competition - a mad rush of scratched hands to bring home the biggest, best and most juicy berries.
Blackberries are totally delicious and can be used to create so many tasty delights.
Plus, if you don't know what you want to make with them yet, just pick them while they're here and freeze them until you do know!
Just one word of advice - I've seen so many people picking them on busy roadsides but fumes from the traffic can ruin the fruit and may mean that you're consuming all sorts of nasties.
Today, I wanted to make blackberry jam.
I am no expert at jam making and have chosen not to use pectin (often used for thickening jam) but kept my recipe as simple as possible.
Carefully wash 1kg of blackberries well under cold running water.
Add 1kg of caster sugar.
Add the juice of half a lemon and a pinch of salt.
Stir and heat to a rolling boil.
Cook for aprox. 20 mins stirring regularly.
Allow to cool slightly and then transfer to sterile jars. Leave a 1cm gap at the top.
Seal and store in the fridge once completely cool.
Enjoy on hot buttered toast - heaven.
P.S. The Daily Mail tells me that blackberry picking is in decline even though "the current economic climate makes it the perfect time to plunder nature's bountiful store cupboard". This seems such a shame. Blackberry picking is as quintessentially British at this time of year as tea and cricket.
I would urge everyone to head out and pick as many as you can - they are free people, FREE!