Blackberries, or brambles as they are called in Swaledale, abound in August and September and are great to forage. There are said to be thousands of different strains and some are much nicer to eat than others so have a taste before you pick. Just remember to pick them before Michaelmas Day (29th September). My grandfather would steadfastly refuse to eat a blackberry picked from the hedgerow after that date because the Devil is said to have spat on them when he landed on a thorny blackberry bush after being kicked out of heaven. Certainly the quality of the fruit will deteriorate around this time with wetter weather encouraging rot. They do freeze well so pick them in time and you can make this ketchup at any time of the year.
Blackberry ketchup is easy to make and has the added advantage of being savoury so suitable for those not keen on jams and jellies and tired of endless crumbles. It is good to eat with cheese especially Swaledale cheese, meat and any dish where you might use tomato ketchup.
A search on the internet will reveal different recipes all involving blackberries, a non-malt vinegar, sugar and spices. I have over time amalgamated a number to end up with the following recipe:
- 1kg blackberries
- 350g finely chopped red onions
- 30g finely chopped garlic
- 500ml cider or wine vinegar
- 400g granulated sugar
- 1tsp salt
- 1tsp black peppercorns
- 1 stick of celery or ½ tsp celery seeds
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes ( or 1 fresh chilli) if you like it slightly spicy
You can vary the spices depending on what you have around. Suggestions include 1tsp juniper berries, 1-2tsps smoked paprika; 0.5 ground cinnamon; 0.5 tsp ground cloves; 0.25 tsp ground nutmeg 1tsp English mustard
- Wash the blackberries in a colander and strain. Put into a large stainless steel or other non-reactive saucepan
- Grind any spices as required or measure out dried spices and add to the blackberries and cook over a low-medium heat
- Simmer the mixture with a lid on the past and cook until all is soft (30-40 minutes), stirring from time to time to prevent it from catching
- Take off the heat and let it cool a little before liquidising or blending it and rubbing it through a sieve to remove the pulp and pips
- Return the mixture to a clean pan, add the sugar and vinegar and slowly bring it to the boil so that the sugar dissolves
- Simmer for about 15 minutes and once thick, leave to cool a little before bottling into warmed and sterilised bottles or jars (rinsed and put into a preheated oven at 160 ◦C for 10 minutes)
- Ensure the tops are vinegar proof
- Store In a cool dark place and allow to mature for a few months. Unopened, it can be kept for a year or more.