Isn’t August the strangest of months? One day you are in the middle of summer and then the next the edges of the Autumn are creeping all around. It is a wonderfully golden month…so full of life with fruit and vegetables ripening on every branch and the fields still blazing in the late summer sunshine.
Nature has shifted from growth to ripening, and everything feels ‘full’.
If you look at the trees, you can just see the little hints of gold creeping in, it is a beautiful month, but it reminds us that we cannot keep the summer, or indeed the fruits ripe on the trees – I love the below Seamus Heaney Poem. It’s perfect for August.
What we can keep though, is as much of Augusts harvests as we are able. So, here is a simple recipe for Blackberry Jam and a hope you find the time to go foraging in the late summer sunshine, sometime over the next few weeks, whilst the blackberries are ripe.
- 450g of blackberries, fresh
- 450g of white cane sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Place the blackberries and lemon juice in a large pan and simmer gently for about 15 minutes until the fruit is soft
- Meanwhile, warm the sugar in a low oven. When the fruit is cooked, add the sugar and stir the sugar and fruit over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved
- Turn the heat up and bring the fruit and sugar to a boil, boil for 10–15 minutes until setting point has been reached (see setting point testing below)
- Once setting point has been reached, take the pan off the heat, spoon any scum off the top of the jam and leave to sit for about 10 minutes
- Ladle the hot jam into warm, sterile jam jars and seal immediately with a screw-top lid. Label once cold
Flake test Dip a large spoon into the pan of jam and scoop out a spoonful. Hold the spoon horizontally over the pan of jam and allow the jam to drip – setting point has been reached when the jam forms a long drip, slightly resembling webbed feet, and hangs without dropping from the spoon.
Cold plate test Place two or three saucers in the freezer. Once cold, spoon a spoonful of jam onto the cold saucers, and push the jam with your finger. Setting point has been reached when the jam wrinkles and sets.
Temperature test Place a sugar thermometer in a jug of boiling water just before testing for a set. Lower the thermometer into the jam – setting point has been reached when the reading reaches 104.5°C
BY SEAMUS HEANEY
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.