A bowl filled with blackberries
It’s been a bumper year for blackberries. I heard this first from the news, which told me that the long, warm summer and subsequent rain had led to a uniquely plentiful harvest. Then, I saw it before my eyes ― after two hours of Heathside picking, I found myself with a 1.2kg bowlful of near-burdensome berries.
Recipes don’t account for this. Nobody accounts for this. Blackberries are normally expensive and come in tiny punnets, so most pies and crumbles make sympathetically small demands. The first one I looked up wanted 140g of blackberries for a six-person crumble. A blackberry galette requested a pitiful 150g.
There’s a smug frustration to the dilemma, isn’t there? Recipes for amateurs, I thought. These people have no eye for hidden clusters. No hand for temperamental thorns. That is, until I spotted the comments: “We’ve picked a glut of blackberries this year” (it’s always ‘glut’), they read.
“And while this recipe looks lovely, it won’t touch the sides of my cavernous, potentially ecosystem-destroyingly large haul.”
Well, that’s me shut up, then.
If, like me, you’re also on the hunt for recipes that use an awful lot of the berries (because, in case you didn’t know, we picked SO MUCH this year), fear not. I’ve compiled a list of all the best blackberry-heavy recipes to make this year, all of which use a minimum of 300g blackberries and none of which are jam (sorry, foraging pros like you and I deserve better). Bon appetit!
Blackberry volume: 300g (I used 400g; it doesn’t matter really)
Takes: An hour and a half, or it took me that long
“When you pick blackberries in the autumn, and gather windfall apples to make this pie, quantity and variety of fruit do not much come into it. You make the best of what you have. This is the way it should be,” the article surrounding this pie quotes. Jane Grigson is exactly right. I used 400g in my version of this pie and took away one apple (to balance the tartness, I only used cooking apples). A perfect pie.
Blackberry volume: 450g (plus a few to garnish)
Feeds: It doesn’t say ― I’d put it at 4-6 people
Takes: Again, it doesn’t say, but there’s a lot of cooling. I’d guess 40-50 minutes preparing them before you cool them overnight.
When I’m sick of overdone recipes, I turn to Great British Chefs. They always deliver the no-nonsense options I need, and this i prime example; no fancy ingredients (besides gelatin), no unusual pairings (I want to taste the blackberries, thanks), and crucially, this recipe has a real greed and a need for the beautiful berry.
Blackberry volume: 595g
Feeds: 10 (but if, like mine, your family loves eating, this figure is flexible)
Takes: Two hours and 15 minutes
Yes, I know that the recipe is American, meaning the measurements have to be converted. But people, this is a pie ― and surely even the staunchest Anglophile has to admit that on that front, the Yanks keep us on our toes. Maple syrup, as much as sugar, sweetens this dessert; the curd’s buttery, blackerry-y (?) scent will linger around your kitchen for hours.
Blackberry volume: 500g
Feeds: well, it makes ten donuts. Do with that info what you will.
Takes: 2 and a half hours
Hot donuts are one of life’s truest joys, and yes, while I suppose these do use jam (sorry!), they don’t simply ask you to plonk the spread in jars and leave them for unspecified months. Instead, it’s injected straight into fluffy, moreish donuts; I mean, they’re basically as close as you can get to a series of hot, toasty, sugar-coated blackberry sandwiches. Bliss.
Blackberry volume: 370g
Feeds: It doesn’t say, but it makes one 22cm-diameter cake. It’d do 6-8 in my house
Takes: again, it doesn’t say, but it shouldn’t be more than an hour and a half, even if you’re slow prepping the batter.
Aside from mercifully undemanding crumbles, this cake recipe is, I think, the simplest I’ve seen. Tangy buttermilk promises a tender crumb, and its gorgeous upside-down design will shine (more so than sloppy pies and crumbles, I feel) on your IG feed.
Blackberry volume: 675g
Takes: about an hour
While I would sub out golden sugar for the plain, white kind in this recipe (I prefer a fluffier, paler, less caramelised topping), you can’t fault it for its sheer blackberry power. Nigh on 700g of glossy, black berries make their way into this low-hassle dish, which replaces the tartness of cooking apples with a dash of lemon juice.
Of course, I’ve only talked about desserts here. You can make vinegar, cocktails, infused booze, and game sauces galore with a glut of blackberries, and they freeze beautifully.