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Wales, United Kingdom
In autumn 2010, my husband Ian and I both quit our jobs, sold our house and left the flatlands of the east for the mountains of Wales. Our goal is to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle in a place we actually like living. Whilst Ian will continue to earn some money as a freelancer, my part of the project is to reduce how much we spend by growing and making as much of what we need as possible. The purpose of this blog is to keep friends updated with how the grand project is progressing, but all are welcome here. If you're not a friend already, well perhaps you might become one.

Friday, 13 December 2013

Foraged Food Friday: Blackberries

I was going to tell you about my next beer experiment this week, but I have a cold and fruit-based drinks are more appealing.


Blackberries (Rubus fruticosus)

I don't have to go very far to find blackberries, as there are plenty of brambles in my garden. Indeed, there's a part of my garden that's inaccessible for this reason. The one pictured above grows on the boundary between my garden and my neighbours' and feeds off my compost heap. The fruit are luscious indeed.

This late summer* bounty has many uses, but the first thing I do with blackberries is to make wine. I also tried Atomic Shrimp's recipe for balsamic-like blackberry vinegar, which is pretty good, but right now I'm drinking blackberry wine.

The recipe I used was:-

  • 4 lb blackberries
  • 1 kg sugar
  • Add water up to 1 gallon
  • Sprinkle with yeast from sachet (remaining half from kit lager)**

The first kettleful of water onto the berries was boiling, to kill off whatever moulds were living there (blackberries always go mouldy very quickly. If you pick a batch and leave them at room temperature until the next day, they will be mouldy). I then mashed the berries with a potato masher before adding sugar, the rest of the water (cold, to bring the temperature down), and the yeast. I let this ferment in a bucket for a week, then transferred to a demijohn (using a jug to scoop and pour - I find this method easiest), leaving the yeasty sediment behind for use in the next brew.

My note-taking seems to have fallen down when it came to dates, but I think that was the end of August. As wines go, this one's pretty quick, so not much more than three months later it's ready to drink.


Blackberry wine

I'm not sure whether you can tell from that picture, but it's a nice clear, ruby colour. It's still slightly fizzy but I have a trick for dealing with that (separate post - remind me if I don't get round to it) but once flattened, it's a very pleasant, light red wine. The thing with these country wines is not to expect them to taste the same as grape wines. Mostly, you can tell what fruit they come from. This is not a bad thing, but if you're not expecting it, your first reaction may be, This doesn't taste like wine. I'm rather partial to blackberry wine, myself. In fact, I think I may have another glass. Cheers!

Also harvesting this week
Celery (this is pathetically small this year but better to have tiny celery than none at all. It doesn't add much bulk to stews, but it still adds plenty of flavour, especially if I use the leaves as well as the stalks)
Nettles, bittercress and sorrel (there's not much of any of these, but I folded a little of each into pastry. They failed to disguise the fact that the lard I used was past its best.)
Leeks
Parsnip
Evening primrose roots

Also eating
Potatoes
Pumpkins, including roasted seeds (not mine)
Birch bolete (from dried)
Knotweed chutney
Green laver
Rowan jelly

Aso drinking
Blackcurrant wine
Honeysuckle and dandelion ale
Sloe and elderberry wine (this year's, though it's not quite ready yet)

Foraged food challenge summary page here.

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* Late August, early September
** I had been keeping yeast going from one brew to the next for several months, but the live yeast got infected after the previous brew - dandelion and honeysuckle ale - so I started again with a half-sachet of yeast I'd kept back from the kit lager.

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