The gift of late summer — an abundance of hedgerow food — is just ripe and waiting to be plundered.
You have to look and taste for yourself to see what’s ready, blackberries are ripe for the picking in sunny spots, pick some now and come back in a week or two for the ones that aren’t ready yet.
You can make jam or cobbler, or try out my homemade fermented fizzy blackberry soda pop.
Always approach hedgerows well dressed in long pants and long sleeves, armed with secateurs or scissors to cut away briars in the way, don’t worry they will grow back with a vengeance.
Pick berries that fall easily into your hands and use them that day or freeze them, without washing or they will turn to mush.
Elderberries are the ripe fruits that were elderflowers, they are loaded with vitamin C and the one thing you should take every day to avoid or cure a common cold or flu.
Cordials of the fruit are fun to make with children too, so don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and your kitchen full of berries, the rewards are just too good.
Have some bottles ready for bottling, cleaned and sterilised by putting them through the dishwasher or into the oven at 160C for 10 minutes.
1 bucket full of elderberries, rinsed of small creatures.
Put the elderberries into a large pot and cover with just enough water — a few green fellas will rise to the surface — get rid of them. Bring the pot to the boil and reduce the heat, leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
Line a large strainer with muslin and sit it over a bowl and pour the cooked berries into it. Leave to strain and then squeeze out the juice.
Measure the juice and pour it back into the rinsed pot
For each 500ml/ 1 pint of juice add 300g/12oz sugar
Bring the mixture to the boil and cook it for 10 minutes at a simmer.
Have your sterilised and still hot bottles at the ready. Be careful doing this and have someone to help you by holding the funnel and bottles in place.
Pour the syrup into the bottles carefully, if you hold the funnel slightly out of the bottle it is less likely to splash you. Pop the lids on to the bottles and wipe them all down with a damp cloth.
If you’re anything like me you will stand back and admire your handiwork with a chuffed grin and hands on hips. Enjoy its unique flavour and take a tablespoon every day, alone or in warm water.
Fermented Fizzy Blackberry Soda
Any opportunity to replace fizzy drinks with naturally made soda is welcome.
In this recipe which is briefly fermented, the sugar is digested by the starter culture to create the fizz so you won’t be consuming much of it in the end.
1 kg Blackberries.
200g Sugar or honey.
1-2 tblsp sauerkraut juice or whey from strained yogurt.
Rinse the blackberries and put into a pot, and cover with 1 litre of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat, then cool.
Strain out the blackberries though a muslin-lined sieve, squeeze out as much juice as you can.
Add the honey or sugar and stir until dissolved. Keep in mind that the sugars will be digested to create the fizz, so you do want to start with it much sweeter than you would like the soda to be. You can also just save this as blackberry cordial at this point.
Pour the ‘juice’ into a sterilized or very clean demijohn, pour in your whey or sauerkraut juice and pop on an airlock. If you don’t have an airlock or demijohn use a 5l plastic bottle with a balloon on the top, letting out the gas a few times a day.
Let it sit for about three days, and taste it. The temperature of the room, the strength of the culture you used and other variables will affect your ferments. Taste it and let it ferment until it’s only a little sweeter than you would like it to be.
Pour it into your sterilised swing top bottles, and store in the fridge. The type of bottle is important, as they allow the ferment to give off some small amounts of gas and won’t explode. You could leave them out at room temperature if you’d like to drink them sooner.
You will want to drink them within a few weeks, or they will get so fizzy that the bottles will almost fully empty out when you open them as happens with my kombucha a lot. To avoid this, pop them in the fridge.
Your beverage will get drier, more tart and fizzier the longer you wait. If you want to give this to your children, then its best that they have it as soon as it’s bottled.
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