It's the time of year to wander around the hedgerows, assuming that you can still find any, collecting blackberries – I suppose I should say brambles really. There’s nothing original about how I make blackberry vinegar but I find it's really useful throughout the year and especially during the winter to come. I use it in dressings, marinades and dishes like red cabbage.
The first time I made this I couldn't quite believe the amount of sugar that's traditionally added, but when you realise that this is more of a flavouring syrup than a vinegar then it makes sense. All you need is white wine or cider vinegar, sugar and blackberries and this is all you do……
Wash and pick over the berries, getting rid of any foreign bodies and other nasty bits and weigh them once they've drained thoroughly. Put the berries in a deep, non-reactive bowl. Traditionally you now need to add 1 pint of vinegar for every pound of berries – I'm a bit generous with the vinegar and add around 580 ml of white wine vinegar to every 450 g of berries. Stir the berries around in the vinegar briefly and give them a gentle crush. At this point you can add herbs, such as a few leaves of lemon verbena, but this certainly isn't essential. Cover the bowl and leave it for between 3 and 5 days – give it a quick stir every day if you remember.
When the time's up, strain the berry and vinegar mix through muslin. This may take a while but you are allowed to press the berries a little to force out the juice. Measure the resulting liquid. The traditional, and I think best, method at this point is to add 1 pound of sugar for every pint of vinegar – so 450 g of granulated sugar to every 570 ml of vinegar.
Pour the mixture into a non-reactive saucepan and bring it up to boiling point while stirring to ensure that the sugar dissolves fully. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes skimming off any nasty looking stuff that floats to the surface.
Let the vinegar cool before pouring into bottles and admiring the colour. This should keep for many, many months, but I seem to use most of it up during the winter without really trying.
You can make raspberry vinegar in exactly the same way and very nice it is too, though personally I don’t find it as useful as blackberry.