It's been a mast year for brambles here on the Isle of South Uist, so I've dared to be different. I'm told there's a mainland bounty too. Thinking beyond crumbles, muffins and jams, I looked at where the blackberries were growing. On one footpath I trod on succulent sorrel, as I filled my basket with berries. A little further on, angelica was tossing blousy cream flowers to the breeze. Ingredients that grow together, work well if they are cooked together....so into the kitchen.
Historically, sorrel was used as a lemon substitute. If you make sugar syrup with sorrel soaked liquid, the result is pink and lemony, not unlike pink lemonade. So my attempt at Blackberry and Sorrel Cordial was a winner.
Next step was using my foraged wild angelica. One word of caution: DON'T mess with this unless you are 100% sure of its identity. Angelica is a member of the carrot family, which includes the dreaded hemlock much associated with the demise of Socrates.The flowers of both plants are white and cluster in umbels. Hemlock's charm is wicked and useful only to those concocting a wild poison chalice. The stalks of wild angelica however are delicious. They can be candied and added to blackberries to make leathers. Use shop bought angelica, if you are short of time. The leaves add a hint of interest to blackberry jelly.
Blackberry and Angelica Leathers (An adaption of Bramble and Wild Thyme Leathers)
600g washed brambles
1 heaped teaspoons candied angelica (to taste)
2 angelica leaves
Juice ½ small lemon
Heat the brambles, angelica, leaves and lemon juice over a low heat until the brambles collapse. Leave to cool. Remove the angelica leaves and blend in a food processor Push the blackberry and angelica purée through a plastic sieve and drain into a jug.
In a food dehydrator pour the purée as thinly as possible over 3-4 racks lined with non-stick baking paper. Drying time will be dependent on the thickness of the puree and the machine used. I find it easier to allow the leathers to cool before removing the paper. Cut the Leathers into strips, roil into coils and store in an airtight container.
In an oven: Pour the mix on to trays, lined with baking paper (or oiled foil). You need a smooth, thin layer no thicker than paper. Bake at the lowest temperature the oven will register for 12-24 hours until the puree is dry and peels away from the paper (or foil) with ease. Watch the colour as the purée begins to dry out, it may be necessary to prop open the oven door to continue drying very slowly.
Blackberry and Angelica Jelly
6 angelica leaves
Length crushed angelica stalk.
Put the berries, leaves and stalk in a pan. Cover with minimal water and cook over a low heat until the berries collapse. Transfer to a jelly bag and strain the juice overnight. The next day, measure the juice. In a preserving pan for each 600ml add 450g granulated sugar. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar and then bring the pan to a rolling boil (rapid) for about 10 minutes until setting point is reached. Use a slotted spoon to remove the scum and pour the jelly into sterile, warm jars. Cover and label.