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This must be the ultimate dream recipe: only two ingredients. It’s so easy it practically makes itself. And the main ingredient is FREE.
Brambles, or wild blackberries, start in late August and continue into October, weather and fellow foragers allowing. They peek through hedges, line fields and meadows, spring up along the woodland paths and by the side of the roads. Thorny enough not to be messed with – it will grab at your clothes and hair with the power of original barbed wire. Foragers: don gloves.
Bramble picking would be the nicest and the most rewarding type of foraging – they are plentiful and in plain view, unlike mushrooms (scarce and camouflaged), wild garlic (masquerading as lily-of-the-valley) or elderflowers (trees are generally daunting). They would – if it wasn’t for the pips.
Even if you aren’t the spoilt type who goes for seedless raspberry in the jam aisle, brambles are REALLY pippy. I grudgingly go for cultivated blackberries in cakes – rich flavour, palatable pips. For jamming though, shop bought fruit is usually too expensive even if you want to make just a couple of jars.
Jelly then – which is basically seedless jam, rather than jellied fruit juice. I thought you couldn’t get away without one of those scary wasp nest-like contraptions suspended half a mile above a collecting jar, but you can easily make do with a colander and muslin cloth.
It should be organic drip, no squeezing of the bag for maximum extraction, for perfectly clear jelly. But a/ I’m far too greedy for that and b/ I was after jam-like pulpy consistency; and anyway Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says it’s okay to squeeze.
bramble jellyServings: makes 2 x 1lb jarsTime: 2 hours plus straining overnight
- 1kg brambles
- 1kg jam sugar (not all may be needed)
- You will also need a jelly bag or a large muslin cloth and a colander
1. Wash the brambles and put them in a heavy stock pot or jam pan with a little water – the residue from the washing will be enough. Bring them to the boil and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until completely soft.
2. If you have a jelly bag, use it according to the instructions. Otherwise place a colander over a tall pot (you can use the same pot you cooked the brambles in, rinsed, while the brambles have been decanted to a bowl). Make sure there is enough clearance between the colander and the bottom of the pan, so the juice can drip freely. Additional scaffolding using a cake tin ring or something similar might be useful. Line the colander with a double layer of muslin.
3. Pour the brambles into the bag or muslin cloth and leave to drip overnight.
4. The next day squeeze the bag with fruit pulp to maximise the yield and decant the juice to a measuring jug. For every 1l of the juice use 750g jam sugar – my yield from over 1 kg brambles was 700ml – so I needed 525g of sugar. Pour the juice and the sugar into the pot again and bring to a gentle simmer. Let it cook for about 30-40 minutes until the temperature reaches 105C – or a blob dropped onto an ice cold plate sets to jam/jelly consistency. You don’t need to skim the fruit scum from the surface but I only bother because it is such a delicious, instant gratification.
5. While the jelly cooks, wash two jam sized jars, kilner or lidded, in hot water. Place them in an oven heated up to 120C and immediately switched off.
6. When the jelly is ready leave it to slightly cool down, about 10 minutes, and then carefully fill the jars. Close them tightly and leave for at least a few days to mature before eating.