Saturday, 29 August 2009

Plant to Plate.

It's been too wet. Our grapes that grew so beautifully all split. It's a shame - I tried one or two that weren't split and they're really lovely. They're actually a purple variety and perfect for eating if a bit seedy - I assumed they'd be a sour wine-type. We had to cut them all down and bin them, but they did look pretty.

The tomatoes, though, have been a bit of a triumph so far - I'm really pleased. These are 'Gardener's Delight', with some unidentified cherries thrown in for good measure. My more interesting varieties so far haven't ripened very well, but we'll see. I have a couple of stripey ones that look like they will, and with any luck some of the big San Marzano plums I planted will do too. I don't mind too much if they don't, because there are fab things you can do with green tomatoes - I'm particularly keen to try the curry.

Our chillies are still purple, but they'll ripen in time - I've had those plants a couple of years now so I know how they'll behave. This year's chillies and the peppers are barely more than seedlings...I'm not sure what I do about those. I'm moving in two months (yes, really, again...) so we'll see how they look then. I might give them to my mum if she can find space for them. Hopefully we'll get a few green peppers in say November...! I should probably have planted them out earlier. Seeds can go into compost in February and no later next year, then hopefully they'll be big enough to plant out by the time it gets warm. The tomatillos are still growing...we'll see how that goes...

Blackberries have come and gone, too. Traci and I actually got around to picking some this year - we meant to last year but failed. I've never been a big jam person, but I did want to try cordial with them. I drink a fair amount of squash of one sort or another, and having something made of blackberries sounded great. I made the most enormous mess cooking them - I stained EVERYTHING a deep, dark purple. I have just ascertained though that with plenty of Vanish these stains seem to be happy to come out of even my pale grey tracksuit bottoms, though I have not yet succeeded in getting them out of the wooden chopping board...maybe I should try Vanish on that, too.
They SMELL incredible - of roses...which shouldn't be a huge surprise because the plants are related. And I didn't really mind the stains when this colour is so amazing. I'd have them cooking all the time if I could, I think.

I had a flick through some recipes on the net, but I didn't see any I was particularly keen on. I didn't want to adulterate the flavour of the fruit with spices as some recipes do - I've had spiced blackberry squash before and it's been a bit too cloying. This is a purer flavour. I suspect I added too much sugar (though hopefully this will mean it keeps better), and this somewhat overwhelms the flavour of the berries. The smell is still incredible, and it's not too cloying either as a drink when diluted with sparkling water. It's amazing, that black purple colour doesn't get any less when you water it just stays black. It's less translucent than coke!

I didn't take proper measurements I'm afraid. I know I used around 2 1/2 litres of blackberries and probably around 400g of sugar maybe less. I was walking a line between trying not to make it too sweet and getting enough sugar into it that it would preserve it a bit.

I boiled the fruit in a large heavy bottomed pot - I didn't need any water as it was already pretty juicy in there. I let it boil until it seemed more liquid than solid, and then added the sugar and boiled for a bit longer to let it dissolve. I then strained it through a sieve and then muslin. This was the part where I made such a mess - my sieve kept slipping and the sheer quantity to be strained meant that it went everywhere. Persevering, I eventually ended up with a thick dark syrup which I bottled in this rather lovely old olive oil bottle that I'd sterilised with boiling water.

It's been in the fridge ever since, and I don't think I'd want to store it out of the fridge. I've been drinking it with my dinner, and we made a cocktail with it, tequila, the juice of a lime and some fizzy water that was pretty nice, too. And it's virtually free!


  1. I made blackberry syrup too earlier this summer - basically the same way as you. You, however, have not made the mistake I did of keeping it out of the fridge (it went mouldy after a couple of weeks). Congrats :)

    (Also goes well with gin, FYI)

  2. It'll still go bad in another week or two I think. But yes, fridge is the answer. And if I was doing it again I think I'd seal it in smaller bottles so I don't have to drink it all day every day...