blackberries in September

Late Summer

path next to arable field in late summer

Late summer is beguiling and wistful. The days are sunny (mostly) and reasonably long but the high summer heat and dust of harvest are over. The landscape has a fabulously wild and unkempt air as parched grasses and weeds grow knee high, seeds scattering in the wind and the stubble fields are roughly tickled, no longer a swathe of regimented wheat plants. Slowly, the first signs of autumn are tentatively creeping in as the berries in the hedgerows belatedly turn colour and the first tiny conkers fall to the ground.

log that looks like a crocodile floating in a pond

And crocodiles broken branches float in the pond.

skeins of naturally dyed wool

Over the summer, I’ve been dyeing with plants and now it’s time to start planning what to knit with all the yarn. A few years ago, I became very frustrated with natural dyeing as everything seemed to be a different shade of beige, which is not my favourite colour. This year, I’ve managed to get a few more colours using nettles, walnut husks, blackthorn twigs, knapweed, rhurbarb leaves, oak galls, avocado stones and alchemilla mollis as well as some solar dyeing with hollyhock flowers (beautiful greens but I’m not sure the colour will last). I have vague thoughts of knitting a fair isle jumper or tank top – heavily influenced by stumbling upon an episode of All Creatures Great and Small in which half the cast seemed to be wearing such items. If I start now, then maybe it will be finished in time for cold winter days. Though possibly not this winter.

blackberries in September

Every year, late summer brings a desire to lay down supplies for autumn and winter. I usually find it ridiculous that I have this hard-wired drive to stock the pantry and freezer when abundant supplies are a click or short distance away. But then last year happened and in lockdown, a well-stocked pantry suddenly seemed rather appealing. So, there will be a few jars of Raspberry Jam and Apple Chutney. Maybe some Blackberry & Apple compote in the freezer and some Hedgerow Gin. Not too much, because (finally) my brain has absorbed the fact that there are only two of us in the house now but enough to make me think I’m well prepared. Just in case. Even though jam and chutney could hardly be termed Essential. I think we can agree that Gin has a place on the Essentials list.

making hedgerow gin

hedgerow gin recipe

Folklore has it that blackberries shouldn’t be picked after Old Michaelmas Day on 10th October because that’s the day that the Devil spits on the blackberries. Apparently, when the Devil fell from Heaven on Michaelmas Day he landed in a thorny bramble thicket and this is his revenge. Whether you believe the story or not, blackberries are certainly coming to the end of their season and now that the weather has turned a bit damper the berries will rot even quicker.

We have just about tired of eating blackberries; after weeks of alternating autumn fruiting raspberries and blackberries for pudding each day, the family were beginning to mutiny so making Hedgerow Gin seems a good way to use the last of the blackberries with the hawthorn berries, rose hips and sloes that are now in the hedgerows.

Hedgerow Gin is a wonderfully autumnal drink and is easy to make. Simply add the fruit to a wide necked jar with the sugar and spices, pour in the gin, put the lid on and give it a good shake. Shake the jar once a day for a week and gradually you’ll see the clear gin turn a reddish purple colour. After a week, hide the bottle in a dark cupboard and leave it there for a couple of months at least. If you’re desperate to drink it for Christmas then strain and bottle it, but it will be better if you let it sit a bit longer and save it for next autumn. If you don’t like gin, then use vodka or sherry. Don’t throw away the strained fruit, but tip it into a saucepan with some water and jam sugar to make a jar of Hedgerow Jelly.

We drink Hedgerow Gin (along with Sloe Gin and Blackberry Gin) by the thimbleful on cold evenings and I pour a spoonful into the top of bottles of Elderberry or Blackberry syrups and cordials in the hope that they improve the keeping qualities, though I may be deluding myself.

Now that the evenings are drawing in and the sunny September days have been replaced by a decidedly cooler October it may just be time to dig out last year’s bottle of Hedgerow Gin and have a little taster.