The bushes in Somerset were teeming with blackberries, but they were just going over. It felt like such a waste, that nature placed a BOUNTY of food at our doorsteps only to be left to turn to mush. Beautiful sweet berries that you'd pay £3 a punnet for at Waitrose were wasting away all along the hedgerows. So I took a little box out and collected as many as I could. Turns out blackberry bushes are fucking vicious, and now I understand why there were so many berries left on the bush. I came away with scratches and scrapes all over my arms and legs. Worse, is that blackberry bushes hide stinging nettles too, bastards. I got stung more than once. Still, I filled my box with fucktons of berries. Because the berries were just going over I worked out I could tap the branch and the soft, delicious fruit would fall from the bramble. All the insects also fell (spiders, funny little beetle things) but that didn't worry me so much. I'd wash them out later anywhere.
Turns out that these blackberries had quite a woody pith, which meant when you ate them you were left with woody bits in your mouth... fine for one or two eaten fresh... less okay for spreading across your toast, and I wanted jam. Turns out there isn't much difference in Jelly and Jam. The difference is this: Jam has all the pulp and fruity bits in it, and with jelly all of that is strained out, and you make the jelly with that resulting fruit juice. I love google... sometimes I wonder how having all this information at our fingertips changes our ability to learn (as in, I read somewhere that we're more likely to recall how to find the information than the information itself... interesting, no?)
Anyway - Here is the catch with Jelly: You need lots of juice. And you need lots of fruit for the juice. It's almost not worth it, not when you can buy it for £2 from the supermarket. My first round I didn't collect enough berries. I got exactly one jar of jelly. My next attempt was much better, and I got several jars. It required some macgyvering for straining the juice overnight, but overall I was pretty happy with it.
(This is the worst bit. Waiting for it set. It took a lot longer than I anticipated....)
Ingredients 1.3kg/3lb blackberries, washed 2 large cooking apples, washed, cored and diced 450ml/¾ pint water 1 lemon, juice only preserving or granulated sugar
Method 1. Steralise a tea towel you don't mind getting pink in boiling water. Wring and leave to cool. 2. Place the blackberries, apple, water and lemon juice in a preserving or large, heavy based saucepan. 3. Bring to the boil, then simmer over a low heat (lid on) for 20-25 minutes or until the fruit is completely soft. 4. Put your tea towel over a large bowl, and tip your fruit stew into it. 5. Suspend your tea towel above the bowl and leave it to drip overnight. 6. Measure your juice. For every 600ml/1 pint weigh 450g/1lb sugar. 7. Put the juice and sugar back into the clean preserving pan, heat over a low heat until all the sugar has dissolved. 8. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until setting point is reached (this might take ages) 9. Skim away any scum from the top of the jelly and fill your sterilized jam jars to the brim. 10. Cover, seal and label. Store in a cool, dark place until required.
Note - if you squeeze the fruit while suspended your jelly will be cloudy. If you want clear transparent jelly, refrain from squeezing.