By Mike on Sunday, August 25, 2013, 23:45 - Permalink
August 2013 - Blackberries are in season, and they're very good again this year.
I picked some and used them to make blackberry vinegar - it's a simple, delicious and useful way of preserving the lovely aroma and flavour of blackberries for use all year round.
We went out for an evening stroll and in less than an hour, we had picked two large boxes of huge, juicy, ripe blackberries.
There was enough here to make my blackberry vinegar, and also a pie, with half a kilo left over for the freezer.
- 650g Ripe, fresh wild blackberries
- 500ml Cider vinegar or white wine vinegar (do not use malt or spirit vinegar)
- Sugar - see recipe (I needed 600g)
- You will also need:
- Lots of small bottles with caps or stoppers.
Place the blackberries in a large bowl and mash them to a pulp with a potato masher, a large fork or any other suitable implement.
Do not use a blender, as this will break open the pips.
A little care is required here, as splashed blackberry juice will stain clothing, carpets, wooden items etc.
When the fruit is very well pulped, add the vinegar and stir to mix
Cover the bowl with a lid, or with a couple of layers of plastic clingfilm.
Leave in a cool place for three days, away from direct sunlight.
Room temperature is best, as chilling the mixture in the fridge may just slow down the infusion and development of flavours.
At the end of the thre days, strain through a fine sieve to separate the liquid from the pulp and seeds.
Again, be careful not to splash.
Do not force or press the mixture through the sieve, as this will introduce too much solid matter into the mix.
Cover the top of the sieve and leave to drip for an hour or two if necessary - until the rate of dripping reduces to one drop every five seconds or more.
Discard the remaining pulp and seeds, set aside the liquid (which can be decanted into a bottle or covered jug - if you don't have time to complete making the condiment, the liquid will keep for days/weeks until you are ready).
Measure the liquid out into a saucepan (ideally stainless steel, as the acidity may corrode other kinds of metal). The quantity of liquid you have will vary depending on the juiciness of the fruit.
For each 250ml of liquid, add 200g of white sugar.
I had 750ml of liquid (starting from 500ml vinegar, the blackberries increased this by 250ml of juice), so I added 600g of sugar. This seems like a lot, but the finished blackberry vinegar condiment will be used quite sparingly.
Bring slowly to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then simmer for 3 or 4 minutes.
Turn off the heat, cover the pan and leave to cool completely.
When the liquid in the pan has cooled, you will notice a layer of frothy scum on top - skim this away carefully with a large spoon - the liquid underneath should now be quite clear.
Taste the mixture - it should be pleasantly sweet and fruity, but with a distinct acid kick - add a little more vinegar if you think it's not tangy enough.
Decant into bottles (I find it's easier to do this with a small jug, pouring directly into the neck of the bottles, than to try to use a funnel) and seal with lids.
Label and store in a dark place - the acidity should preserve this condiment pretty much indefinitely - although the flavour may mature and the colour may change with prolonged storage.
Using Blackberry Vinegar
As a cordial - A surprising, but very traditional way to use fruit vinegars is as a soft drink.
Dilute two or three tablespoons of blackberry vinegar in a large glass of cold water (still or sparkling) - the resulting drink is a guaranteed thirst quencher - with a surprising tang that refreshes all the way to the back of the throat.
Although I don't personally find it particularly vinegary-tasting, I don't suppose this is going to appeal to everyone. It's worth a try though - I really enjoyed it.
As a tonic/medicine - A tablespoonful of blackberry vinegar, swallowed undiluted, is a reliable cure for hiccups and can help to soothe a tickly cough. The acidity and short cooking time should also have preserved a significant proportion of the vitamins originally present in the fruit.
As a condiment - Blackberry vinegar is delicious as a table dressing for salads or cooked vegetables (here, sliced runner beans).
It can be used almost anywhere you might normally use vinegar (especially balsamic) - blended salad dressings - sprinkled over frying onions to help them caramelise, even in desserts - a couple of tablespoons of blackberry vinegar and a little sugar, stirred together with sliced fresh strawberries is quite delicious.
Fruit Vinegars - Other Possibilities
The next thing I want to try is to press the fresh juice from a kilo of blackberries, simmer this down to reduce it to a thick syrup (without any added sugar), then blend it with vinegar.
If I'm right, this should end up something like commercial balsamic vinegar, only nicer (the commercial grades of balsamic vinegar are made by blending reduced grape juice with wine vinegar).
Update: You can see the results of that experiment here.