This year the hedgerows near our home have been packed to bursting with wonderful blackberries. On our first trip out Martin and I collected 5lbs of juicy goodness and our fingers were stained purple for days. The second trip was a little more eventful. We returned to our “spot” only to find that the local council had been out “hedge cutting” with the big, tractor driven cutters that leave nothing in their wake but splinters and bare branches. All that lovely brambly goodness is gone until next year.
Actually, what makes me more sad than the loss of the blackberries is the loss of the flowering ivy which was packed with hundreds of bees and, as we know, they need all the habitat help they can get at the moment.
Admittedly the road is now about 3 foot wider which probably helps immensely if you have to drive down it and we did find a new “picking spot” just half a mile away.
Now, enough of the nature walks, let’s return to the cooking. This is where it all gets a bit confusing with the word jelly. After that first trip I made blackberry jelly (a strained jam). On our second trip I made blackberry sorbet and blackberry jelly (the cold, set dessert). Too much jelly. This post is about sorbet and the wibble wobble kind of jelly on a plate.
I made both of these together to create different textures for a dessert I created as part of a 5 course vegetarian dinner for friends. Both recipes start off the same way so I have put them here together. As I was cooking for vegetarians I used vege-gel rather than gelatine.
Vege-gel is not a direct replacement for gelatine so follow the instructions on the pack and be prepared to improvise! 1 sachet sets 1 pint of liquid but as it is affected by acid and alcohol and I wanted a really firm, sliceable jelly, I used one sachet for every half pint and it seemed to work quite well.
I didn’t have any blackberry liqueur but I did have cassis so I used that instead – it tasted really good but was definitely more blackcurranty than I would have liked. If you want to make this recipe out of season it works well with frozen blackberries too.
I served both of these with baked apple, biscuit crumble and toasted hazlenuts to create a kind of deconstructed blackberry and apple crumble as the dessert in a 5 course vegetarian dinner I cooked for friends.
You need to begin by making a blackberry syrup:
1 pint / 500ml Water
1 lb / 500g Sugar
2lb / 1kg Blackberries
Juice of ½ Lemon
50 ml Blackberry Liqueur (optional)
Pour the water and sugar into a large pan and stir over a gentle heat until the sugar is dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for a minute or two. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.
Pick over the blackberries removing any stalks, mouldy berries and insects and then rinse clean. Rinsing the berries is really important if you picked them from the road side.
Put the berries into a large bowl or jug and blitz using a stick blender. Pour over the cooled sugar syrup and blitz again to combine. Strain through a sieve to remove all the seeds and any stalks you may have missed.
Stir in the lemon juice and the blackberry liqueur.
To make the sorbet
Reserve 1 pint of blackberry syrup for the jelly and pour the rest into a shallow, freezer proof container. Cover with a lid or cling film and place in the freezer. Check after about 1½ hours, ice crystals should be forming around the edge of the container. Stir well with a fork to mix these in and return the box to the freezer.
Repeat every 1½ hours or so until the sorbet is completely frozen but fluffy and light. The texture will be improved by blitzing the whole thing in the food processor and then returning it to the freezer for an hour but this is not necessary.
If you have been a bit too generous with the alcohol you will get a very soft set. If you left the liqueur out the sorbet may freeze more solidly and will need to be removed from the freezer for five minutes or more before serving.
To make the jelly
1 pint Blackberry Syrup
2 sachets Vege-Gel
Whisk the vege-gel into the cold syrup. Bring to a gentle boil over a low heat, stirring all the time. The jelly should thicken as you do so.
Pour into a shallow container, allow to cool then place in the fridge until firmly set.
If the jelly does not set, whisk another sachet of vege –gel into the cooled mixture and repeat the heating and cooling process once more.
Once the jelly is set, dip the container in hot water and turn out onto a flat surface. Use a sharp knife to cut it into cubes. Alternatively you could pour the jelly into a mould.