The summer in Cornwall appears to be over. Falmouth Week has passed, the tourists are all in a very long line on the A39, heading ‘back to England’, and the hedgerows are absolutely groaning with blackberries after basking in glorious sunshine for what seems like months.
Last week we braved the two-carriage train to Falmouth to watch the Red Arrows display over the bay. Last year 45,000 people went into town to see it, which is more than twice the usual population, and a similar number was expected this year, so it makes things a little squashy. Luckily, Robin and I have had many years of advanced London Underground training, so we managed to sneak into a little gap while nobody was paying attention.
As ever, the boys in red arrived absolutely on the dot of 6.15pm, appearing out of nowhere and screaming across the town at rooftop height before heading out to Falmouth Bay, where the scary stuff happens. Last year, we didn’t have a very good spot and missed some of the display, but we spotted an ideal vantage point near the castle when we were out walking last Christmas Day and it proved to be a gem. We even had the base of a beach telescope on which to rest our bottoms while we were waiting. We did have picnic envy though, so next year we’re planning folding chairs, a bottle of Prosecco and some nibbles. By 2020, we should have moved on to a full banquet…
The grand finale of Falmouth Week is the fireworks display, launched from the hillside behind Flushing, across the harbour from the town. It was a great display, but it’s always a little sad, as it spells the beginning of the end of the summer.
Talking of which, we have been out on the Bissoe Trail, clutching our Tupperware boxes and picking some of the fantastically juicy blackberries. Quite a few have been squirreled away in the freezer for use over the winter and I’ve made several vats of blackberry & apple jam, the smell and taste of which never fails to remind me of our grandmother’s house when we were kids. I’ve no idea why blackberry jam is rarely, if ever, available in the supermarket, but homemade is best in any case.
This is a very easy jam – the best apples to use are Bramleys, Granny Smiths, or any other tart green variety. It doesn’t matter whether they are labelled as cooking apples or eating apples. If you have to use sweeter or red-skinned apples, double the amount of lemon juice so that you have enough pectin for the jam to set.
The fruit, sugar and lemon juice are all chucked into the saucepan together and the only thing to remember is to start the process over a low heat so that the sugar dissolves before the liquid boils. If you do not do this, you will end up with sugar crystals in your jam. I normally add a knob of butter at the end to disperse the foam, but have not done so in this case, as some of the jam is being posted to granddaughter in Warwickshire, who is allergic to milk, but feel free to stir in about half a teaspoon to clear the froth.
The quantities of fruit don’t need to be exactly half and half – just make sure the sugar is equivalent to the total weight of the fruit.
You will need warmed, sterilised, glass jars with lids. You can sterilise the jars by running them through a dishwasher cycle and using them immediately while still hot, or by washing in soapy water, rinsing well and then putting on a baking tray into a 100°C oven for ten minutes. You will also need a large saucepan, at least twice the capacity as your fruit/sugar mixture.
Blackberry & apple jam
Makes approx 4 x 500g pots
650g blackberries, washed
650g apples (peeled/trimmed weight – I used 7 apples), peeled and cored
1.3 kg white sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Place a saucer or small plate into the freezer before you start the jam – this is to test the set later.
Chop the apples finely or whizz them into small pieces in the food processor (they will disappear into the jam, so no need for anything that looks smart).
Put the chopped apples and the blackberries into the saucepan, along with the sugar, lemon juice and two tablespoons of water. Give everything a good stir – the sugar should start to dissolve immediately.
Put the pan over a low heat and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once the liquid is clear, turn the heat up a little and bring the jam to a simmer. Leave to cook (without a lid) for about half an hour – you want the mixture to be just bubbling, not threatening to rise up and boil over. Give the jam a stir every ten minutes or so.
Once the jam has cooked for about half an hour, turn up the heat to medium and boil for approximately five minutes. When the jam is ready, you will notice too that it has visibly thickened and turned a glossy dark colour.
Put a teaspoon of jam onto your cold plate and leave it for 30 seconds or so, then push it with your finger. If the jam wrinkles slightly (see photos for example of this) then your jam is ready. If it doesn’t, boil for another five minutes and test again. Repeat if necessary. Stir in the knob of butter now, if using.
Leave the jam for ten minutes or so, then ladle into a heatproof jug and pour into your sterilised jars (a jam funnel is helpful for this – they are inexpensive and help to stop you getting splashed with hot jam – not to mention getting it all over your kitchen if you are anything like as messy as I am).
Put the lids on the jars while the jam is still hot, as this will help to form a vacuum. The jam will keep for months, as long as it is kept in a cool place. It is delicious with scones or as the base for a Bakewell Tart or simply to spread on hot buttered toast.