We have been away from a few days to Surrey to stay with very old friends. We had a glorious time catching up where we left off last. To my embarrassment, despite invitations, it must be four years since we last went down to visit. ( Although we have met up elsewhere in between.) We did a National Trust house on the one day. A fabulously interesting property – Polesdon Lacey.
Whilst we were away my son decided to make Blackberry Jelly in my kitchen. Distracted for a moment he managed to get boiling jam all over the hob! Anyway, Mum to the rescue and with some white vinegar and bicarb I managed to get the last of the burnt on sugar removed when we got home.
I had an hour berry picking myself yesterday. I have always loved doing this – out tramping round the fields in the sun. Stick and large plastic jug in hand. Defying the catching, scratching trails of bramble; fighting the nettles and thistles to get at the “treasure”. Literally, battling, sometimes, to forage for something absolutely delicious. I think Seamus Heaney’s poem captures the essence of “blackberrying” perfectly. Luckily we have the freezer for surplus these days!
I think this is certainly the earliest season I can remember and despite the hot and dry the berries are absolutely huge and lush. So, together with the windfall apples from the lawn , it is blackberry and apple crumble on the menu tonight!
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.