We had a full on foraging day this weekend at my favourite spot - the nameless bridleway opposite our house. It's an unremarkable, workaday little lane, heading off the B1077 into open farmland. It appears on Faden's 1797 map of Norwich so I know it's at least 200 years old - maybe even more.
Residents of Norfolk and Suffolk may not see anything remarkable in that but residents of my home town, Warrington, probably will. Warrington is the kind of place you can leave for 6 months and, upon your return, be unable to navigate to the town centre because the 2 new by-passes have sprung up in your absence. The Golden Square is full of confused ex-pats who drove into the Leigh Street car park and seem to have emerged in a different century. In short: it changes - a lot. Buildings are pulled down and roads are built, the streets are like shifting sand.
So to this urban girl, it seems astonishing that the oldest known map of Diss shows the town centre largely unchanged from today's street plan and I can pick blackberries from a hedge I'm can be confident is at least 200 years old.
The fruit down there is fairly ordinary, blackberries, sloes, crab apples, rose hips and elderberries but it's convenient being so close. Last year I was delighted to discover some dewberries down there. All the foraging books claim that dewberries are common but this is the only place I've ever found them though I suppose it's easy to mistake them for mal-formed blackberries. As they're tricky to pick without thoroughly squishing them so we guzzled them at the roadside - scrummy.
I think I'm nearly done on the jam making front for the year. I've got cooked blackberries straining in the kitchen in preparation for the king of preserves - Bramble Jelly, and on Sunday I made Apple and Blackberry butter which was truly divine. As I have probably mentioned before, fruit butters are a thick jam made of pureed fruit. They're great for filling sponge cakes as they don't dribble down the sides or soak into the sponge, they just sit in an impressively thick, obedient pile. Similarly they're good in jam tarts as they don't bubble and overflow the pastry shell so you can pile loads in. If the fancy takes you, they can even be turned out, sliced and serves as a dessert with nuts and clotted cream.
Apple and Blackberry Butter.
1.8kg cooking/crab apples
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
Roughly chop the apples cut out any bruised bits but don't peel or core. Cook them with the blackberries in the water til all the fruit is very soft and pulpy. Rub through a sieve. Return the puree to a clean pan with the spices. For every pint of puree (my jam pan is calibrated which makes this part much easier) add 25g butter and 400g sugar. Stir over a low heat til the sugar as dissolved, taste at this point to check the spices and add more if you think it's needed. Turn the heat up and boil til setting point is reached. Pot up into sterilised jars. The yield for me was 7, almost 8, jars.