Blackberries are available in our supermarkets throughout the year and you may just find some British ones on the shelves throughout the summer. Sadly, the majority of them are tart and lacking in sweetness and fruity flavour. Come September and the hedgerows are laden with ripe blackberries ready for picking by people and birds alike. There is no better time to enjoy this delicious fruit and I tend not to eat it at any other time of year for fear of disappointment.
I was not organised enough this year to be ready in hand with tupperware and a non-white top at the point the blackberries reach plump and juicy ripeness but fortunately my parents were. On the hottest weekend in September, which has turned out to be our summer, they brought me some foraged blackberries and some deliciously sweet raspberries from their allotment. As they were beginning to go squishy and the temperature hit 28.5 degrees, a sorbet seemed an ideal celebration of our Indian summer.
Having thoroughly confused myself attempting to work out the correct ratio of berries to water and sugar using the Leiths method – I’m sure it will all become obvious when I get there – I turned to google for a sorbet recipe. Most recipes are pretty similar but have slightly different methods. In addition to berries, the ingredients usually include water, sugar syrup, lemon juice, and occasionally alcohol or liquid glucose. Egg white can be added to prevent the formation of large ice crystals, slow the melt and give the sorbet a smoother texture. If you are adding egg white eat within 24 hours and do not feed to the young old, infirm or pregnant. I opted for a simple version and the result was refreshing and intensely flavoured. It could have been a little smoother, which is where an ice cream maker would come in handy.
I had a couple of egg whites that needed using up and this seemed the perfect opportunity to practice swiss meringues. Swiss meringues are made with twice the weight of caster sugar to egg white and are the simplest of the three types of crisp meringue, the others being Italian (made with a sugar syrup and more stable) and Meringue Cuite (made with icing sugar, finer, chalkier and even more stable).
#1 were crisp and chewy but wept a little sugar which according to the “what went wrong section” either means the oven was too high or they were overcooked. I’m slightly perplexed by this as they began weeping long before they were cooked. Maybe I should get an oven thermometer.
Served with raspberry and blackberry sorbet the meringues were the perfect end to our unexpected summer weather. Delicious!
Intense raspberry and blackberry sorbet
450 g of raspberries and blackberries
juice of 2 lemons
Heat the water and sugar over a low heat and slowly bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 2 minutes until the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Pop the berries in a food processor and whizz to a puree. Strain through a sieve to remove the seeds and pour into a shallow container. Stir in the sugar syrup, then add the lemon juice to taste.
If you are lucky enough to have an ice cream maker, churn according to the manufacturers instructions. If not (and I’m not), place the sorbet in the freezer. Stir the frozen crystals that form around the edges with a fork every hour for four to five hours to break up the ice crystals and then leave to freeze completely.
Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving.
Swiss Meringues #2
Fast forward a couple of weeks and the temperature has dropped by more than 10 degrees. I made swiss meringue #2 on a slightly damp day which may explain why the meringues absolutely refused to dry out even with extra cooking time – and still they wept sugar! Even so, they tasted rather lovely with greek yogurt and apples caramelised in brown sugar and a touch of lemon juice.
BBC Food: Apple tart with blackberry sorbet
Woodlands.co.uk: Blackberry sorbet
Leiths Techniques Bible: Susan Spaull & Lucinda Bruce-Gardyne
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