Brambles or blackberries are the one connection that most of us have to the wild harvest in Britain. It is partly due to their accessibility: brambles abound in hedgerows and at the edges of woodland, making them an easy wild snack even for those who don’t like to wander too far from the car. The main reason, though, must surely be their quality. While not consistent in flavour – brambles vary through their season and even from bush to bush – they are sweet enough to appeal to children yet subtle enough to keep the adults picking too.
The bramble season runs from August until November and it is suggested that the early, ripening berries are the best. There is a celebrated taboo about not picking brambles after the 10th of October due to the devil visiting the bushes, but the origin of this date has probably more to do with the night frosts which will reduce the flavour of the berries.
At Knockderry House we have already been out picking our beautiful brambles, and there is nothing like heading out onto Peaton Hill on a sunny afternoon after a busy lunch service to pick brambles, even just out on the doorstep on the hotel you’ll find a vast horde of the berries.
In the hotel’s kitchen we like to use the earliest ripened brambles (the ones closest to the ground) as they are big, juicy, sweet brambles on the plate, but as we get further into the season we use them for puddings, like bramble summer pudding, or even later in the season we mix them with apples to make apple and bramble crumble.
So get out and enjoy the best of nature’s harvest.
Apple and Bramble Crumble
3 large apples
30g /1¼oz butter
150g / 5oz caster sugar
pinch of cinnamon (optional)
80g / 3oz blackberries
50g / 2oz butter, diced
110g / 4oz plain (all purpose) flour
55g / 2oz caster sugar
Preheat the oven to 200C, 400F, Gas Mark 6.
Peel, core and cut the apples into slices.
Melt the butter in a saucepan. Add the apples and cook gently for a few minutes, then sprinkle in the sugar and
cinnamon. Continue cooking, stirring, until the apples are just cooked.
Add the blackberries to the saucepan and stir, very gently to combine. Spoon the fruit mixture into a shallow ovenproof dish.
To make the topping, lightly rub the butter with your fingertips into the flour and sugar until crumbly. Sprinkle the crumble mixture over the top of the fruit.
Cook for 20-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Delicious!
Bramble Summer Pudding
750g/1lb 14oz mixed summer fruit (such as raspberries, red, white and blackcurrants, tayberries, loganberries, blackberries, cherries and blueberries)
185g/6½oz caster sugar
1 medium loaf good-quality white bread, slightly stale
2 tbsp cassis or blackcurrant cordial
Place the fruit in a pan. Remove the stems from the redcurrants (if using) with a fork, pour the sugar over the fruit and stir gently to mix together.
If you have time, cover the pan with a tea towel or cling film and leave for 3-5 hours (or overnight) to get the juices running. Place the pan over a moderate heat and bring gently up to the boil.
While the fruit is simmering, cut the bread into thin slices and remove the crusts.
When the juices are beginning to flow, raise the heat slightly and simmer for about 2-3 minutes. Then turn off the heat and stir in the cassis or blackcurrant cordial.
Cut a round out of one slice of bread to fit the bottom of the bowl, then cut the remaining slices into triangular wedges.
Dip one side of the bread circle into the juices in the pan containing the fruit, then place the circle in the bottom of the pudding basin, juice-side down. Do the same with the bread triangles, dipping one side of the bread into the juices before placing them around the edge of the bowl, with the dipped side facing outwards. The tips of the bread triangles will be sticking up from the top of the bowl at this stage.
Once the bowl is completely lined with the juice-soaked bread (be sure to plug any gaps with small pieces of bread if necessary), spoon all of the fruit and its juices into the pudding basin. Trim the tips of bread from around the edge. Cover the top of the fruit with more wedges of bread. Place the pudding basin on a plate to collect any juices.
Find a saucer that fits neatly inside the bowl. Place it on top to cover the upper layer of bread, then weigh the saucer down with weights – bags of rice, tins of baked beans, or whatever comes to hand. Let it cool, then place in the fridge overnight.
The next day, remove the weights and the saucer. Run a thin blade around the edges, then invert the basin onto a shallow serving plate.
Turn the pudding out, cut into thick slices and serve the summer pudding with cream.