Berry picking and jam making in Hackney

Wick Woods

After patiently waiting for weeks for the blackberries to ripen, they are finally there. Well most of them. Besides earlier berries are higher in pectin, which is better for making jam. Despite a forecast of rain, and indeed it was raining when I stepped outside, I pushed ahead with my plan of berry picking. Nothing was going to hold me back.

Blackberries found!

After a late start, I decided to go somewhere local via my bicycle. The canals through Hackney are pleasant for cycling and I had them to myself in the rain. I headed for Hackney Marshes, which is supposed to be a berry picking delight. I made a first stop in Wick Wood — but all the blackberries had been pulled there. There were stacks of dead vines everywhere. I did stumble across an apple tree though, and will be back for those!

Canal to Hackney MarshesArt on the way

Hackney MarshesLea River P1020694

As soon as I reached the wood, torrential rain began and didn’t let up. After sheltering beneath the trees, I decided I just had to make a move to the neighboring marshes. The rain was so heavy that I was drenched in seconds, but I found lots of berries. I picked through the afternoon, which was so much fun. Just like being a kid again. I really missed the autumn harvesting of berries while living in the Southern Hemisphere, where invasive blackberries are cleared as much as possible. After my bag began feeling heavy, I headed home. I picked about 1.5 kg of berries!! And now have that much jam to last me through to next year. See my recipe below, with reduced sugar.



Blackberry and apple jam recipe

1 kg fresh blackberries

750 g green apples (cored and peeled)

1 kg sugar (warmed)

Place two small plates in the freezer. In a heavy-based saucepan, heat the apples and berries with 125ml water for 30 minutes over a medium heat, or until soft. Then add the warmed sugar and stir until dissolved. Then bring to a boil for 20 minutes.

After the jam falls in sheets (rather than drops) from a wooden spoon, put a teaspoon full on one of the plates from the freezer and return to the freezer for 30 seconds (until jam is room temperature). A film should have formed on the top, and it should wrinkle when pushed. If not, return jam to the heat for a few more minutes and test again. If it isn’t setting, add the juice of a lemon and heat for two more minutes.

Then place in sterilized jars (heat the jars in the oven for 20 mins at 120C) immediately and seal. It will produce around 1.5kg jam. I used two 700 ml jars and two small jars. Keep in mind that once opened, you will have to use the jam within six weeks, so I recommend small-ish jars depending on your level of jam consumption!


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