Well, summer’s finally arrived.  No really.  Yesterday was the hottest September day on record and the heatwave is set to continue over the weekend.  Not so much the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’, which John Keats apparently wrote on 19th September (in his poem ‘To Autumn’), but a time to bring out the barbies and bikinis.

It’s been a funny old year for weather, which is affecting various crops in different ways.  We had a terrible year for tomatoes as the damp, warm weather meant the plants got very mouldy.  But apples are apparently early and yielding well.  And while it may seem natural to hit the beach in all this glorious sunshine, it is actually autumn and there’s nothing better to do on a nice autumn day then spend a quiet hour picking blackberries.  Blackberries are a true superfood as they’re very high in antioxidants, vitamins C, E and K as well as manganese.  And they’re free!  Folklore dictates that you shouldn’t pick blackberries after Old Michaelmas Day, 11th October, as the devil has been doing unpleasant things to them!  The date at least probably makes sense, as by then the fruit may have been affected by mould.  So get picking over the next few days.

Another wonderful thing to do in the autumn is to make chutney.  Storing up some of summer’s sunshine to be brought out in the depths of winter is very satisfying, and bubbly cheese on toast topped with chutney is a great comfort food!  I may leave further chutney making ’til the hot weather’s over, as it’s also a lovely activity for colder days!  But I now have a store of blackberry and apple chutney tucked away in a dark cupboard ready to be brought out when winter really does kick in!

Blackberry and Apple Chutney

1lb / 400g Blackberries
3/4lb / 300g Bramley apples
½lb / 200g Onions
1 level tsp salt
¾ pint / 0.5 litres Malt vinegar
2 level tsp freshly grated ginger
½ level tsp ground cloves
10oz / 250g Demarara sugar

Thoroughly wash the blackberries and put them in a heavy bottomed saucepan.  Prepare the apples and onions by chopping them finely or mincing them in a food processor.  Put them into the pan with all the other ingredients except the sugar.  Bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes to allow the fruit to soften, then add the sugar.

Leaving the pan uncovered, simmer the chutney until it thickens.  This should take 1 to 1 ½ hours.

Meanwhile heat some clean jars in an oven set at 100˚C for at least 10 minutes to sterilise them.

Pour the chutney into the jars and seal straight away.  The chutney is best left for at least 2 weeks before eating, to allow the flavours to fully develop.

*My hollyfoods range of chutneys and jams are for sale in Par Ici in Twickenham in west London.

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