If you are searching for a blackberry recipe, fruit roll ups or blackberry leathers might be a quick and easy option.
As a self confessed terrible cook, making healthy snacks is something I never thought I would write about but, knowing what is in your food, choosing healthy options and making your own lunchbox treats can be complicated and seemingly expensive. In this blog post we are going to have a look at how you can forage for free and make your own lunchbox snacks.
I love autumn. I get to go from burning everytime I go outside, to being able to get my jumpers out, get my wellies back on and justify hot chocolates in the evening and getting cosy with the log burner too.
But in early autumn we get a weird half summer, half autumn phase where the weather can’t quite make up its mind. From fantastic sun sets to foggy mornings and intermittent pouring rain. That means it's blackberry season.
Foraging for Blackberries.
In this blog I’m going to share this year's make from September. Blackberry Roll Ups, based on the Fruit roll ups you can buy in the shops and made from foraged fruit from our very own hedgerows. If you are short on time, skip ahead to get straight to the process. I don't have a particular fondness for the fruit itself on a day to day basis, in fact I actually eat a lot more bananas than any other fruit, but there is something about blackberry picking that is pretty nostalgic. Every year, when I was little, we would go blackberry picking. Some years we came back with a huge number and others I guess we ate most of them on the way round. So when we moved into Candleford Cottage with so many fields around us, blackberry picking was something that I definitely wanted to do. I pester James about being able to find an afternoon to go for a walk and to pick blackberries from the minute they start growing. We don't always manage to get there before the birds do, and we don't always do something useful with the blackberries after, but this year having joined a foraging group on Facebook book I'd got an idea for a recipe that wouldn't take too much effort and would work with the tiny amount we did remember to collect. Before we get into what we actually made I just want to put a warning out there that you shouldn't really be foraging and eating anything that you find unless you're certain about what it is. There are a lot of plants out there, berries and different mushrooms for example, that look absolutely amazing but if you eat the wrong ones they will really make you ill and I believe some of them even run the risk of killing you. So get yourselves a book, get yourselves an app or something you can trust before you go foraging. Blackberries though, for us, they're a pretty safe option. We are lucky where we are as our fields are surrounded by hedgerows and there are a lot of footpaths through fields with plenty of blackberries in the hedges. As normal by the time we get round to blackberry picking the birds have got to most of them, which is a little bitter sweet. The way we have managed our fields this year has meant trying to build an environment that encourages a lot of different birds and creatures. We've got owls thanks to having left some sections of field wild allowing hiding places for mice and other rodents. Wren's and robins nesting in the hedges and trying to live in the hayracks. We've bought fruit roll-ups in the past from the supermarket, normally have the ones with the little Bear on the front, so we sort of knew what we were aiming for. I found the recipe on one of the Facebook groups for foraging in the UK. I have no affiliation with this group but there's some really cool ideas on there.
Making Blackberry Roll ups or Blackberry Leathers
I actually only managed to collect a few blackberries on one of our evening dog walks so I think when I put them into my blender they only came up onto the around the 500ml mark. So what do you need to make your own Blackberry roll-ups? - First up, blackberries. - Honey - bonus points if it is from a local bee keeper - Baking tray - Parchment paper or greaseproof paper - A blender - And an oven. I'm not going to tell you exactly how long this will take, because it really does depend on how many blackberries you are going use. First, you want to wash your blackberries. Make sure there's no creepy crawlies or any nastiness in your blackberries. We are very lucky here because they come from our hedgerows and we know they haven't been sprayed and I obviously didn't pick any that were at dog height for obvious reasons. Once you've got them washed (I didn't bother drying them) put them straight into a blender. For our roll-ups I added 1 tbsp of honey to my 500ml of blackberries. You can use a different amount depending on how you like it. Next up, blend until you create a nice purple paste. It won't take very long. Pop your greaseproof paper into your tray making sure that the paper comes up the sides and there's no gaps for the blackberries to leak. Pour the blackberry paste onto the baking paper and smooth it out evenly. You don't want the Blackberry to be too thick because we want it to dry out without cooking. Think of the texture and thickness of the ones you buy in the shops. Pop the oven on to a low heat, put your Blackberry paste and your tray in the oven but don't close the door, leave it a little bit open. Now you're going to let it cook on a low heat for a few hours. You'll know it's ready when it's slightly squishy to touch but feels quite firm, and when you try and push the sides it should feel like it's going to roll. Take it out the oven at this point and leave it on the side to cool. Before we cut it into strips, I just tested that it was fully cooked by trying to roll it with the parchment. In our case we needed to pop it in for a little bit longer because the middle wasn't quite ready.
Once you're sure that it's firm enough to roll you can cut it into thin strips, roll them up and that's it. Pop them in an airtight container and enjoy them as you want. We ate ours within a week and they lasted perfectly well for that amount of time. If we do this again next year, I think we will change things a little bit. We were really fond of the texture of the seeds, so next time after washing I think I will cook them down with the honey and then pass them through a sieve before putting them on the baking tray. So we'll probably cut out the part using the blender. Hopefully that works and will update the blog next time next year if it succeeds. Confession time... There are zero photos of this make so you'll just have to believe me but they actually looked ok.