Wandering along the train tracks, keeping a sharp eye out for ripening blackberries among the tangled thorns beyond the railings may have led to many a scratched arm this week, but it has also given me the most wonderful respite from the computer screen and the library. Foraging for wild fruit requires such utter concentration yet patience and perseverance that it gives you a real peace of mind away from all the stresses of dissertation writing, and I can’t recommend it enough. Thanks to the strange weather we’ve been having, the foraging season has arrived early, so grab some friends, a few tupperware boxes and take some time off to take a walk and pick your own fruit. Don’t despair if you live in an urban area – you can find blackberry bushes in the most random of places.* If you’re planning on making jam, choose plenty of slightly-underripe blackberries that are still firm.
There is, after all, no cheaper food than free food, and the products can be fantastic birthday and christmas presents if you’re on a budget . The weights below are just guidelines, and can be adjusted according to how many blackberries you’ve picked. It may be tempting to go for Sainsbury’s Basics vodka but, after a few bad experiences in first year, please benefit from my experience: it tastes like paint thinner, and I’m not convinced even the most delectable of Britain’s wild fruit can mask it (I went for Sainsbury’s own brand but I’m sure Lidl’s finest will be fine). This vodka will take 2-3 months to infuse fully- see the next post for a recipe for blackberry jam, which will produce quicker results.
*Just please don’t forage on private land or on your own after dark.
You will need:
1 very large jar of around 1.5 litre capacity (Sainsbury’s sells kilner jars for £3/4), 2 large jars, or several medium jars
1 lb / 450 g blackberries
5 oz / 125 g granulated sugar
700 ml bottle vodka
- Pick out the stems and put the fruit in a colander. Wash.
- Put the fruit in the jar (or distribute among the jars if you have several).
- Add the sugar (or, again, distribute).
- Add/distribute the vodka.
- Give your jar(s) a good shake, and put in a safe place for it to infuse.
- Every day for the next week or so, give your vodka a good shake to get the fruit infusing and the sugar dissolving. You could invent a new dance to go with your daily shaking, perhaps with a soundtrack of Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off, or Florence + the Machine’s Shake It Out.
- After a week, shake it weekly for the next 2 or 3 months.
- When it’s ready, taste it for sugar content. If you prefer your alcohol sweeter, add a little more sugar and leave for another week, shaking frequently to get the sugar to dissolve.
- Sieve the contents into a large jug, and pop your delish blackberry vodka into an empty, washed bottle. Enjoy!