Christmas Special – Blackberry recipes

Only few days left till Christmas and I thought it would be nice to share some summer recipes I tried this year which bring warmth to cold dark days of December. There is a special feeling about giving and receiving home-made Xmas presents and many of my little jars of blackberry jam and some bottles of  blackberry vodka were given as gifts to friends and family.
We have a blackberry hedge at the end of the garden planted by previous owners which produces pretty pink flowers in spring, lots of blackberries in the summer and loved by bees. And I like bees a lot! I can spend infinite time observing various types of honey bees and bumblebees buzzing amongst the hedge flowers, listening to their hummm, watching sun shining on their backs covered with golden pollen, trying to record a video of them and always failing!
Honey bee on the flower, London Garden Blog
First year we moved in I was completely unprepared for the blackberry harvest, or at least the sheer quantity of it! I mean we tried to give them away to friends and eat the rest 🙂 but failed to keep up. This year I was ready armed, especially when I saw the gazillions of blackberry flowers promising a bumper harvest, with some interesting recipes I found online and lots of clean jars and bottles my Aikido friends kindly collected for me.

 Blackberry jam, London Garden Blog
First on my list was to make blackberry jam. I was anxious, I have never made jam before and the only thing I knew about making any kind of jam were my grandmother’s words in my head: “For any amount of fruit, use the same amount of sugar”. Well, this is a start I thought. A bit of research on Google showed that blackberries are low in pectin, which is why you need to add lemon (or lime) juice for jam to set. I added juice of three lemons. Next worrying point was to find the jam “setting point “. I didn’t have a sugar thermometer and to be honest I hadn’t even heard that jam has a setting point but I remembered my grandma again and her wrinkle test. I put three plates in the freezer 10 minutes prior to testing, anxiously awaiting the right moment. I dribbled several drops of jam onto a cold plate, and then did it again…and again until the surface of the jam wrinkled when pushed with a finger. In the end I made two sets of delicious jam: seedless and with seeds. I enjoy them both, but if you would like to make seedless blackberry jam, strain juice through a cloth (or metal strainer) before moving onto step 2 in the recipe below.

Blackberry jam, London Garden Blog

Blackberry jam
Ingredients:
  • 1.25kg blackberries
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 1.25kg sugar

Makes approximately 5 x 500g jars

Method:

1. Put the berries and lemon juice into a large stainless steel pan and cook over a low heat, stirring every now and then, until the berries are soft and plenty of juice has been released. Press gently with a potato masher to release even more juice and break up some of the fruit, but don’t reduce all the berries to pulp.
2. Add the sugar, then stir for about 10 minutes until the sugar dissolves. This is important to prevent the jam from crystallising during storage. Increase the heat, then boil steadily for 10 minutes until setting point, 105°C, is reached (or perform the wrinkle test!)
3. Remove the pan from the heat, skim any scum off the surface, then leave for 5 minutes for the fruit to settle into the syrup. Stir well, pour the hot jam into warm sterilised jars, then immediately cover with lids. Label, then store in a cool dark place.

Original recipe is from Delicious Magazine.

Next step for me was to up my game a bit with a recipe for blackberry vodka! I adapted the recipe of blackberry cordial from Syrup & Biscuits blog. It was relatively easy to make, the only time consuming part was straining the blackberry juice. I used a metal strainer together with some cloth bought in Poundshop. Vodka had an amazingly punchy taste with a distinct blackberry flavour but I should warn you it was not very strong. When my Russian friend tasted it, he asked me “Sasha, it is really nice, but can I add vodka to it?” 🙂

Blackberry vodka, London Garden Blog

Blackberry vodka
Ingredients:
  • 4 cups blackberries
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cup vodka
  • 1 cup sugar
  • spices (adapt to taste): 4 cloves, 4 black peppercorns, 4 cardamons, 1 bay leaf
Method:
  1. Place blackberries, water and spices in a saucepan. Simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring often and mashing the berries.
  2. Remove from heat and strain through a cloth (or strainer). The yield will be about 4 cups of blackberry juice. Stir in sugar while the liquid is still warm until sugar dissolves.
  3. Let cool completely. Stir in vodka.
  4. Pour blackberry vodka into sterilized bottles, screw on lids and store in a cool dark place for at least two weeks before serving.

Last item on my recipe list was blackberry cake. Since watching The Great British Bake Off, I liked to make Mary Berry’s Lemon Madeira cake. The cake has a distinctive crack along the top and the most wonderful and warm fragrance of lemon. Its simplicity is what makes it great. So when I was searching for blackberry cake recipes I wished to find one close to Mary Berry’s recipe. Luckily I found one on Flours in your hair website. Flours in your hair also has an Instagram account with lots of interesting Christmas recipes, so make sure to check it out. Apart from ricotta cheese and blackberries, the ingredients and method are almost identical to the lemon cake recipe. Creaminess of ricotta and tartness of blackberries go great together but other berries can also work well.  I don’t have a stand mixer so I mixed my cake batter by hand. It’s easy!

Blackberry cake, London Garden Blog

Blackberry cake
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup Blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 1/2 cups Flour
  • 1 1/2 cups Ricotta cheese
  • 1 3/4 cups Sugar
  • 3/4 cup Butter (softened)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons Baking powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Vanilla extract
 Method:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (gas mark 4). Butter a loaf pan and line the bottom with baking paper; butter the baking paper.
  2. In a bowl mix together butter, ricotta, and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add flour, baking powder and vanilla extract and mix well.
  3. Sprinkle blackberries over batter and stir gently to combine.
  4. Pour batter into loaf pan and tap on the counter a few times to ensure there are no air bubbles.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees, then lower oven temperature to 325 degrees (gas mark 3). Bake for another 45-50 minutes, until a tester inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean and cake springs back to the touch.
  6. Let cool completely, and serve with tea!

Have you got any of your favourite recipes to share? Comment below and let’s create a tasty list of garden recipes for New Grow Your Own Year together!

With warmest wishes for Christmas and New Year, Sasha.

 

10 Replies to “Christmas Special – Blackberry recipes”

  1. Wow, lots of great recipes there. Well done. I use cooking apples with the blackberries for jam, delicious.

    1. Thank you, Hugh! Nice touch about apples, I will need to try!

  2. They are really amazing, and I had the privilege to taste one these jams.. looking forward to taste the cakes and a sip of (light) vodka! 😉

    1. Thank you, Alberto! I will have to bring some to Bologna!😋

  3. A fellow garden blogger wrote a nice post about BBC Down to Earth gardening programme including some interesting recipes and home-made presents. A beetroot cake is definitely worth trying! Make sure to check it out: https://bramblegarden.com/2017/12/21/fact-sheet-bbc-down-to-earth-gardening-programme-recipes-and-home-made-presents/

  4. Hi Sasha! Firstly, great that you’ve started a blog! Second, l love your avatar of a succulent plant, really cute! This is a lovely post – love all the recipes! – it’s great to hoard our harvests for winter use. I’ve got squashes in the kitchen that I’ll use over the next couple of months in risottos, soups, etc. I also have lots of beetroot + parsnip stored for my very seasonal Christmas Soup! If you want to read up on it, it’s here (hope you don’t mind me posting the link!) https://urbanvegpatch.blogspot.co.uk/2009/12/christmas-soup.html
    Have a great Xmas – looking forward to reading more from you! PS where in London are you? I’m in North London (Tufnell Park way) Caro x

    1. Hi Caro, thank you for sharing a great recipe! It reminds me a bit of “Borsch”, it is Russian beetroot soup (my favourite!).
      This is what this post is all about: to share tasty recipes for the new year of growing your own!
      I am in North Wembley. Hope we can meet one day (soon!).
      Have a wonderful Christmas and Happy New year! xx

  5. I smiled when I read your grandmother trick for jam because we all have the same ancestor thing … always the best!
    Now I always use a thermometer (104 ° C: it’s over!)
    For me blackberries often go with apples (pies, clafoutis, crumbles …) and it’s always delicious.
    Here in France we are not used to drink gin, vodka … (or it’s me??) I prefer to make a cream of blackberries and add it to white wine or cider to make a kir (if you know) … cheers!

    1. Yes, I am always amazed how seamlessly our grandparents used to do things! Jams and preserves just appeared from nowhere, ready for children to eat 🙂
      Horti Hugo also mentioned apples – seems like blackberries and apples is a winning combination!
      I have never tried kir, but it sounds exciting! Next time I am in Paris 🙂

  6. […] year my garden is going through a big transformation and unfortunately it means that the wild blackberry hedge much loved by bees will be lost to make room for a tropical conservatory. My plan was to replace […]

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