It’s that time of year again when there are tempting bushes, ripe with blackberries, around every corner and I can never resist heading out with my traditional washed out ice cream pot to collect as many as I can. The berries just look so juicy and although the bushes are full of thorns, and scratches are inevitable, I just love harvesting these free gems of nature. This year I was lucky enough to have a huge bramble bush grow just next to my house and I frequently checked it to see when the berries were dark and ripe, and as soon as they were I rushed out with my pot, thoughts of blackberry crumble already in mind!
Once gathered up I took my blackberries inside and let them soak in some cold water to get rid of any nasty weevils that might be living in the berries. Some years are better than others for weevils and likewise the location of the bushes can dictate the number of weevils in the berries. I was pleased to find my collection this time around was pretty much weevil free! Weevil test passed with flying colours I popped the berries into a freezing pot and squeezed them into the freezer as I didn’t have any apples on hand to make my crumble right away. Of course it’s always better to use fresh rather than frozen, but nature doesn’t wait for anyone and blackberries will become over-ripe out in the sun, or mouldy left in the fridge. Plus I find frozen berries to have an extremely pleasing aesthetic to them, but maybe that’s just me!
Unfortunately my natural apple supply from the neighbours tree overhanging my garden was eradicated last year by new neighbours, much to my annoyance, so I had to rely on the supermarket for three good size bramley apples to form the base of my apple and blackberry crumble. With all the ingredients at my side it was time to start the baking. Into a big bowl I put 8oz of plain flour, 4oz of sunflower baking margarine and 4oz of sugar, plus a handful of oats to make it a nice chunky crumble topping. I rubbed all the ingredients together with my fingers until they formed breadcrumbs and then I turned my attention to the fruit. After peeling and slicing the apples I layered them into a baking dish with the blackberries straight from the freezer and put the crumble mix on top. A quick pat down and a scattering of oats on top for good measure and the crumble was ready to pop in the oven. I baked it for about 45 minutes until the top was crisp but not burnt.
Once it had cooled slightly and I could resist the delicious fruity smell no longer, I dished up servings of the crumble and topped with hot custard. Ice cream, cream or evaporated milk would make a great topper too and would make the dish more Summer themed as crumble is usually a good Winter warmer, but good fruit is not usually in season then. And there it was, my first blackberry picking expedition and crumble of the season. I’m sure I’ll be off out again soon to stock up the freezer with more of natures harvest while they are perfectly ripe, it seems to be a good year for them this year. Why not grab yourself some free fruit from our hedgerows and forests and make a summer fruit medley or crumble yourself this season? Don’t forget to leave a few berries for our wild birds and mice though!
Emily the Forest Dweller.