So it’s summer and very soon the prickly hedgerow branches will be bending under the weight of glossy, fresh blackberries all ripe for the picking. They’re dark, juicy, and good for you, but best of all, of course, they’re free if you can find them.
Towards the end of each summer, I equip myself and my two children with a plastic container each and we go out picking blackberries. It’s more a way of getting us all out into the sunshine and fresh air, and away from the telly more than anything else. But it also promises some kind of treat for afterwards: gummies, smoothies, crumble, jam… and that works as good motivation for us, I can tell you.
So, blackberries. Are they really good for you? Well, they contain fibre and good amounts of vitamin C, so that’s good. And there’s some magnesium and vitamin A in there too. They’re also, as anyone who has ever plucked one straight from the bush will know, not very sugary which is good for those of us watching our sugar intake.
If you’re going out blackberry picking remember to pick only what you need – we always leave some behind for the birds and any other pickers. This limits waste and makes sure there’s plenty to go around. Once you’re home, give them a wash in cold water and check them over really well for mould or insects. They’re best used up within a day or two of picking – or you can bag them up and put them in your freezer.
You can make ice creams, smoothies, lollies, and fruit crumbles with your blackberries, but one of my favourite and most glamorous ways to use them up is in a good, old-fashioned panna cotta.
Traditionally, panna cotta is made with cream but this one’s made with coconut milk. It’s thickened with gelatin and sets in just a few hours. It is tough waiting for the panna cotta to set though. I kept taking one out of the fridge and giving it a wobble, spoon poised for action. You can always make these the night before you need them and they’ll set while you’re sleeping. And as well as all those goodies in the blackberries itself, you’re getting a dose of gelatin too which is thought to help healing.
This recipe is Paleo and autoimmune protocol (AIP) compliant – there’s vanilla extract in it, but that’s heated up to remove any alcohol so it’s fine to use for strict AIP. Whether you’re using freshly-picked blackberries or ones from the local supermarket, I hope you enjoy this treat as much we do.
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 150g blackberries, plus more for serving
- 400ml full-fat coconut milk
- 1½ tsp gelatin (I used Great Lakes Gelatin, red can)
- Heat the honey, vanilla extract and the blackberries in a small frying pan, and bring to a gentle simmer. Crush the berries with the back of a spatula or spoon as you heat them, so that they soften and release their purple juices into the pan. Turn off the heat and leave to cool for a little bit.
- Next, measure out half the coconut milk into a small saucepan and add the gelatin. Leave it for a couple of minutes and then turn on the heat underneath the pan. Heat the coconut milk gently, whisking to make sure the gelatin is all dissolved. Make sure it doesn’t get too hot and boil - it should just be warmed and slightly thickened. Turn off the heat. Pour the remaining half of coconut milk into the saucepan with the coconut milk and gelatin mixture.
- Place a sieve over the saucepan and dump the warm blackberry mixture into the sieve, scraping and pushing the blackberry juice into the bowl below.
- Once you’ve finished pressing all the blackberries though the sieve (leaving the seeds behind), give it a stir to combine fully and pour into ramekins, shot glasses or espresso cups and cover with cling film and leave to set in the fridge. It’ll take about 6 hours to set completely, or leave it overnight.
- Serve cold, with an extra blackberry or two alongside.