the last blackberries

It’s been a good year for blackberries here at Slamseys Farm. Each year I follow the ripening of the bushes around the fields, starting in early August with the first small bush in Great Forest Field to the last weeks of September when I walk to the far end of the farm to the thicket in the corner of Gardeners Field to pick the dark, purple coloured berries.

According to British folklore, Old Michaelmas Day on 10th October is the last day that blackberries should be picked as that’s the day the devil spits on them. Whether you believe that or not, by now the blackberries are coming to an end and although there are still plenty of unripe berries, many of the ripe berries are too soft to pick.

As a consequence, we’ve been making the most of the last blackberries. Beth only picks blackberries for her gin when they’re at their best, which means that anything I pick in October is for me!

blackberry vinegar 2015

As well as a last flurry of making blackberry puddings and cakes, the pantry is now stocked with bottles of Blackberry Vinegar. I add a dash of Blackberry Vinegar to gravy when it needs a bit of a buck up, slosh a little over roasted vegetables for the last five minutes of cooking to make a glaze or use it in salad dressings. Diluted with soda water, Blackberry Vinegar makes a surprisingly refreshing long drink, being less sweet and cloying than some cordials. In winter I dilute Blackberry Vinegar with an equal measure of boiling water and drink it when I have a sore throat when the rasp of the vinegar on the back of my throat seems to override the pain. Strangely, the rest of the family prefer medicated throat lozenges instead.

blackberry dyed wool

Another batch of blackberries went into the dyepot with the berries simmered in water for an hour and then left to stand overnight. Next day the blackberries were strained out leaving a gorgeous deep purple liquid to which I added alum mordanted wool and simmered for 50 minutes, resulting in a dusky plum coloured yarn. Interestingly (well, I think it’s interesting) I put one hank of yarn into a jar with a little of the dye and added wood ash water (read how to make it here ) and the wool changed to a green brown colour. I don’t think these wools will be very light fast, so it will be interesting to see what colours they fade to.

cotton dyed with blackberries

There were a few blackberries left over so I used them to do some bundle dyeing. I’m not a great fan of bundle dyeing as I usually get a rather grungy looking result so I tried using only blackberries on this sample. I spread the blackberries on the cloth, folded and rolled it up tightly and then wrapped it in cling film and hung it above the simmering dye pot (as I extracted the dye from the blackberries above). I left it overnight and then unwrapped it.

bundle dyeing brambles

In this sample I also used leaves and coins, which makes an interesting pattern, though I prefer the pure blackberry sample.

blackberry vinegar recipe

Last of all, I couldn’t resist a little jelly printing with the leaves. Ruth and I are thinking of running a Blackberry Day in The Barley Barn next September, incorporating some or all of these processes, which might be fun. I think we shall have to include a taste of Slamseys Blackberry Gin somehow. Perhaps we could finish with a Blackberry Cocktail. I must start working on that one now.

11 thoughts on “the last blackberries

  1. Great looking projects Ann. I like the Blackberry Vinegar and drinking it hot or cold.. The colors in your cloth and yarn are beautiful .

  2. That’s an intriguing colour change you got with the woodash there … I’ve never got anything that dark. I’m loving the purple … what was your weight of berries to yarn ratio Anne?

    1. I was just experimenting so 200g blackberries for 100g yarn – if I was dyeing more yarn I think I could do the same weight blackberries to yarn don’t you think? Will have to try next year when i’ve discovered if this yarn colour is light fast.

  3. I’m stunned at how much you do with your blackberries. I do like the thought of adding a splash of blackberry vinegar to gravy or roast veggies. And I can see why diluting it would be nicer than sugar laden commercial cordials too. What a funny fable though – the devil spitting on the blackberries!

    1. Once the days get damper the berries spoil very quickly and can taste a bit yeuch so I guess someone just made up a story to stop children picking them!

  4. The colour of that wool is so soft and pretty Anne, lovely! As always I love your recipe illustrations and printing. A blackberry day sounds like fun, especially with some blackberry cocktails. Have a great week x

  5. I love the story of the devil spitting on the blackberries! now, why would he do that?
    I love blackberries in a lemon cake. the two flavours go so well together. but I do love the idea of a berry vinegar… maybe when ours come on soon.

  6. Gorgeous post Anne .. you are a clever girl. Love the sound of the blackberry vinegar. I have never thought about pouring it over roast vege. Sounds like a great idea. So do blackberries in a lemon cake 😀

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