It’s been a really exciting time in Falmouth recently. There is free food everywhere. When I moved to Cornwall I had it in my head that I’d be a super-hip forager. I’d nip down to the beach (five minutes away. Have I mentioned that?) and pick up some seaweed to go with dinner, or pick up some wild garlic in the woods, or even do some fishing. Free food, amirite?
In reality I barely eat greens that didn’t come out of the sea, so that’s probably a ‘no’, I don’t know what wild garlic looks like so would 100% end up eating some kind of vine, and I once nearly jumped off my paddleboard because a fish momentarily strayed into the same patch of water.
But once it hit the end of summer the blackberries came out. I know where I stand with blackberries. There’s no funny business. You just take a tub out with you, pick away, and try to shrug off the judgement from the weekending Londoners like the natural country person you are. Sure, I got a bit stained with juice. I got a bit viciously scratched because I didn’t realise how sharp the thorns would be. I ran shrieking from several bushes at the mere suggestion of an insect. But over the course of a couple of weeks I filled my freezer with blackberries.
It was an almost irresistible pull in the end. I had fruit FOMO. I might have let myself get slightly carried away, but every time I got home with a box of berries I was worried I might be missing some more. Which is neither mentally healthy or particularly public spirited.
When I eventually came to my senses and remembered that I really don’t enjoy purple foods (something it definitely would have helped to remember before some of my more Gollum-like behaviour) I had a full kilogram of berries waiting to be used. They sat in my freezer for a while before somebody pointed out that I could make gin, and suddenly I had a purpose again.
The blackberry gin recipe I used required me to cook the berries down with sugar and then strain it into some
‘get through the day’ juice gin. The issue was that that leaves some not-quite-jam pulp behind, and I really hate wasting food. I also really hate blackberries. Plus, I slightly hated myself for getting into this mess.
Tired, purple-tinted, and slightly tipsy from taste testing the supermarket own brand gin I bought to pimp with my bounty, I channelled every bakerly bone in my body and made some pastry. I’d love to say I made tarts straight away but in reality I got distracted by Elaine Page’s Radio 2 show, put the pastry in the fridge, and left it there for a couple of days.
I did eventually whip up some tarts of my own invention by filling pastry cases with as much not-quite-jam as I could get rid of and absolutely piling on sugar. I was aiming for some kind of caramel situation. What I got was twenty minutes of glaring through the window in my oven door yelling “caramelise you c**t!”. The Bakeoff honestly don’t know what they’re missing.
Once the tarts had finished disappointing me I took them to my office, where people are either insanely polite or genuinely don’t mind a blackberry. I call bullshit.
The real tragedy in all of this is that I still have half a jar of blackberry pulp left to use up. My new plan is to distribute it so thinly through a massive cheesecake that I don’t even notice it’s in there. Oh, and also to just say ‘no’ to blackberries next year.