Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Hedgerow Bounty

I walked through the lanes near Holly Grove yesterday morning scouting for blackberries. Such a slowpaced and pleasant activity, scanning the hedges for the beautiful black jewels, a lovely way to spend a late August morning. Time to let thoughts drift and allow eyes and ears to contemplate the diversity of an English hedgrow and its wildlife. The hedgrows surrounding our garden are made up of holly covered in green berries, hawthorn with its red berries, ivy, damson, hazel, dog rose, honeysuckle, sycamore and brambles.

So, after an hour or two of forraging I returned to the HG kitchen with one and a quarter pounds of hedgrow blackberries - so what to do with them...blackberry and apple cheese. Fruit cheeses are firm and can be cut into wedges or slices. Best served as an accompaniment to cold meats or dairy cheeses, or cut into slices and dredged in sugar and served as a sweetmeat.

So with the apples on one of the trees ready to pick I gathered the last of the red and white currents to augment the blackberries and set off to make:

Blackberry and Apple Cheese
Makes about 2lbs
2lbs blackberries (I used 1lb 4ozs blackberries and 12ozs red and white currents)
1lb apples, cut into chunks with skin and core intact
grated rind and juice of 1 lemon
1lb 12 ozs granulated sugar, warmed

Put all the fruit and the lemon rind and juice in a preserving pan and pour in enough water to come half way up the fruit. Bring to the boil, then uncover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is very soft.

Leave the fruit to cool slightly, then press the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, using the back of a spoon. Measure the puree into the cleaned preserving pan adding 14ozs sugar for every 1 pint of puree.

Gently heat the puree, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat slightly and cook for around 50 minutes, stirring frequently, until very thick - you should be able to see the base of the pan when a wooden spoon is drawn through the mixture.

Spoon the blackberry and apple cheese into warmed, sterilised jars. Seal and label the jars, then store in a cool, dark place for 2-3 months to dry out slightly.

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