Late summer is such a very magical time in the food calendar for chefs

Simon Gueller recipes

Blackberry ClusterSimon Gueller recipes

Blackberry Cluster
Simon Gueller recipes Blackberry Cluster
For me late summer is a magical time in the food calendar.

lackberries teem from thorny bushes, the fragrant elderflowers have turned into plumb green berries and scarlet fruit laden rowan berry trees dot the countryside.

The solitary apple tree in my garden is awash with a ruby red crop.

I cut one open and was instantly transported back to childhood and dunking for apples – when apples smelled and tasted like they should as opposed to the insipid supermarket variety that tastes of nothing.

The elderberry bushes are straining with green berries. We make cordial and champagne from the lacey white flowers in mid summer, then inexplicably ignore them for the rest of the year. Seamus Heaney describes the ripe black berries as “A swart caviar of shot. A buoyant spawn, a light bruised out of purple.” When they’re ripe, tart berries make a tangy syrup that will ward off winter colds because of the rich nutrients in the fruit or make them into a jelly with port and thyme to have with winter game. In the meantime pick the green berries, submerge them in seasalt for 3 weeks, wash, dry and then pickle in vinegar. These little orbs are like floral capers and just a teaspoon will elevate a sauce or dressing for oily fish or grilled lamb with a sweet scented piquancy.

Picking blackberries should be a mandatory part of the curriculum in primary schools. As well as learning where food comes from class could swing past the supermarket afterwards and compare their free crop with the £3 measly punnet imported from Peru. Horticulture, maths and geography in one simple lesson. The blackberries you pick are infinitely better than cultivated varieties – they tell the story of a rain lashed summer with pockets of steamy sunshine.

Plums are serendipitously in season at the moment and the first recipe is for a blackberry and plum torta. Plums are poached and then poked into a buttermilk sponge that’s studded with blackberries. Lovely warm from the oven with a good dollop of cream or served cold with a cup of tea.

Because blackberries are free for the picking it’s a good idea to harvest them when you can and then preserve for the rest of the year. You could freeze them or make them into a jam but making them into wine is a much more fun prospect. The only specialist equipment you need is a demi-john and your wine will be ready in just over a month. There’s nothing as satisfying as making your own wine. When the nights draw in and a chill fills the air you can mull the blackberry wine in the same way you would red wine. Add a dash of Grand Marnier orange brandy for a little extra decadence.

If you have any blackberries left I’ve added a recipe for a quick and easy chutney that’s great served with smoked meats or roasts.

In her Jam Book from the 1920s May Byron cites a quote about blackberries “This most prolific and excellent wild fruit was long neglected except by peasants and country folk . Seldom used, either in a raw state or dressed, to quote a cookery book of sixty years ago”. This is still pertinent today. There’s a particularly good crop this year so make the most of it when you can.

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