by Paul Cormacain
AUTUMN colours remain, and why not ? Blackberries remain, and the question is whether we should go for more blackberry jam.
Is it my imagination, or did everyone pick blackberries in the good old days? My own recollection is that all us kids picked the fruit, many of us ate it as quickly as we could pick it, and then we all started to pick some for the mother to make jam.
It was never us who made the jam, nor was it the father or older brother or sister, it was always ma. Well, what were mas for in those days ? Why, they were slaving over a hot stove, cleaning and cooking, ironing clothes, checking the homework and making blackberry jam.
So what has changed? Not so many folk make their jam any more, and more members of the family are involved in jam making. And I still see many blackberries around in the wilds.
The fruit is getting older, darker, and quite past its prime. Natural predators seem to have been leaving them alone, now the human predator is leaving them alone. Well, is not the devil entering into them about now, and all forms of life know that it is better to avoid the fruit.
We did acquire some blackberries recently. Apart from himself and herself, our offspring gathered some of the fruit, and some of their friends were roped in. We got loads of apples from the garden, and made masses of blackberry jam, and also apple and blackberry jam. Magnificent!
We are witnessing the end of the blackberry season for another year. In spite of blackberry nostalgia, fewer and fewer folk are gathering the fruit, and even fewer are making jam. Fewer of us pick beech mast and hazel nuts, although we tend to be delighted at finding a spot of hazel nut, for example, on a piece of chocolate.
Blackberries, or brambles as they are called, are deciduous or ever-green shrubs with prickly and woody scrambling stems. New shoots arise from the base each year, and these tend to lengthen and strengthen during the first year's growth. In the second year these shoots tend to die off, but their frame provides a good protective screen which protects the growth of the following year. But brave jam makers can still get through this growth to gather fruit each year.
As well as making jam from blackberries, other folk make wine from this delicious fruit. Some insects like the fruit, and perhaps this puts some of us off gathering them. If we lived in Wales or south England and wanted to use the fruit for a recipe, we would have to compete with dormice.
They obviously have good taste! Thank goodness the dormice did not cross the Irish Sea.
As well as wine and jam, some folk make a wider range of products. I have seen them made into pies and summer puddings. Others make fruit fools and salads, and of course you can make jellies as well as jelly jam. If you are into wine, you can allow the fruit to stand in red wine over night This kills all the insects and makes the fruit taste nicer!
Then I hear of some folk going into raptures about blackberry junket. Use a juice extractor to obtain the juice from the fruit. Let the juice sit, without going near it, for the temptation would be great. In a few hours the juice will have the consistency of a light junket, and can be eaten with cream and sweet biscuits. Decadent.
Must be more adventurous with free wild fruit next year!