Tuesday October 02nd 2012, 12:39 pm

a colander full of foraged blackberries

For the last few years, the apple harvest in my area has been abundant and neighbours growing orchard fruits have been hard pressed to give away their surplus crops. Boxes and bags filled with bramleys and Blenheim orange apples, stacked up by garden gates with hand-written ‘apples for free’ signs are not an uncommon sight September- October time, and as an obsessive preserver I’ve been ready and waiting to take full advantage. But after this year’s early burst of spring followed by what seemed like months of summer rain, the 2012 harvest is set to be on a much more modest scale.

blackberries growing in the hedgerow

Apple and pear trees usually heaving are either bare or noticeably sparse. One neighbour, with her own orchard, told me, the bees just weren’t around at the right moment to pollinate the blossom. Thankfully there is always some crop or other that has benefited from another’s struggles and this year the blackberries in the hedgerows seem plumper and more plentiful than I’ve ever seen them before. The early foraged blackberries, usually containing more pectin, make the best jam with good setting power, whilst the later ones are more useful for cordials and chutneys. By mixing them with some of the few apples around, I’ve managed to eek out the best of both worlds. The two wild apple trees near to home still carry a few fruits that need using up.

rose attar scented leaf geranium

Blackberry and apple jam is a classic that works equally brilliantly for breakfast, spooned onto scones or, as the purists serving suggestion, on bread and butter. I prefer to leave the blackberries whole and love their texture, but you can put the fruit through a food mill or sieve to make a smoother seedless jam more to your liking. I acquired a rose attar scented pelargonium earlier in the year to pair with blackcurrants, so here’s another opportunity to break off a few leaves and add them to the pot. It just adds the extra element required to make this simplest of jams into something exceptional.

blackberry apple rose geranium jam


Makes approx. 1.2Kg (2 1/2 lbs) of jam

500g (1 lb) tart apples, bramleys or wild apples will do fine, peeled cored and roughly chopped
300ml (10 fl oz) water or apple juice
500g (1 lb) blackberries
juice of 1 lemon
750g (1 3/4 lbs)sugar
4 – 6 rose rose attar geranium leaves (optional)

Cook the apples with the water or apple juice until the fruit begins to break up and becomes soft. Add the blackberries and lemon juice and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes. If you prefer a seedless jam, allow the fruit to cool then run it through a food mill or push through a sieve and continue with pureed fruit.
Add the geranium leaves tied together in a bundle and the sugar to the fruit and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, bring to a simmer then remove from the heat and leave for the flavours to macerate for several hours or overnight.
If you plan to can (water process) your jam, prepare the water bath and jars and place jar seals in a pan of hot water on the hob. Using a preserving pan, bring everything to a rolling boil and maintain the heat until it reaches setting point and a blob of syrup readily forms a skin as it cools on a cold plate. It only took me 5 minutes to reach a set with my jam. Fish out the geranium leaves and discard them. Pour the jam into hot sterilised jars and seal. If you are canning your jam, process for 5 minutes then remove from the canner.

Thursday November 01st 2007, 12:31 pm


A couple of days ago Maddy, the little girl from next door, brought me a bowl of pumpkin flesh, dug out of a large pumpkin she was carving for halloween. Here is a slice of the pie I made with it following a recipe I always use and that never fails to go down well. This pie only gets made once a year and some years I don’t get around to it at all.

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4
Make shortcrust pastry to line a 23cm loose-bottomed flan tin: 160g plain flour, 80g unsalted butter, 1 – 2 dessert spoons caster sugar, zest of half a lemon (optional), 1 egg yolk, a drop of milk or water as required.
Rub the butter into the flour, add some sugar and lemon zest if you like then bind together quickly using the beaten egg yolk, adding some milk or water to bring the mixture together and gather it into a ball. Leave to rest for half an hour in the fridge, wrapped in cling film.
Roll out the pastry and line the buttered flan tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and place a piece of greaseproof paper and baking beans over the base. Bake for 25 minutes then take out the oven, remove the beans and paper and leave to cool.
Cook 600g of pumpkin flesh in a pan for approximately 15 mins with just a splash of water; as it cooks it will make its own juice so you don’t want it too watery. Put the cooked flesh into a food processor (or use a hand blender). Add to it, 125g soft brown sugar, half a teaspoon each of nutmeg, ground ginger and ground cinnamon, 1 tablespoon honey, grated zest from each of 1 lemon and 1 orange and the juice from half of each. Process until smooth. Add 3 beaten eggs and blend together then pour into the pastry case and bake for 50-60 minutes until the centre is set.
Allow to cool then serve dusted with icing sugar and accompanied by whipped cream slightly sweetened with some of the syrup from a jar of stem ginger.