Posts tagged ‘blackberry’

September 5, 2013

Blackberry cock – An Irish twist of an east Finnish classic

by Ciaran Burke
The baked pie... anybody for some blackberry cock?

The baked pie… anybody for some blackberry cock?

When I was first offered a fish cock in Kuopio, the capital of the eastern Finnish province of Savo, I did not know how to respond. One does not wish to be rude and impolite to the natives, but the prospect did not sound too promising. The look on my face must have betrayed my fear, it was explained to me that the fish cock was indeed a fish pie. Mustikkakukko, blueberry cock, is a blue berry pie made with a delicious rye pastry. Such pies are also called rättänä in Savo, Finland. The Finnish blueberry is Vaccinium myrtillus, what we call bilberry or froachan. The bilberry season has passed us, it is now prime blackberry season. Along the hedgerows and roads the black fruits of Rubus fruticosus, hang inviting us to pick them, and so the blackberry cock was created!


Blackberry Cock (pie made with rye pastry)


For the pastry

  • 250ml Rye flour
  • 125g butter
  • 125g light muscavado sugar, sieved
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

For the filling

  • 700ml blackberries (about 0.5kg)
  • 50ml sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon corn flour
Crumbling the butter with the rye flour

Crumbling the butter with the rye flour


  1. Mix together the rye flour with sieved sugar and baking powder
  2. Crumble in the butter
  3. Wrap in greaseproof paper and put in the fridge for at least an hour
  4. Mix the blackberries, sugar and corn flour
  5. Line a ceramic dish with a little more than half of the rye pastry, saving some for the top
  6. Fill in the blackberry mix and then top off with the rye pastry. Working with rye pastry is more difficult than wheat or spelt pastry, it is very difficult to roll. So don’t worry if it does not hold together.
  7. Place in a pre-heated oven to 200 degrees Celcius and bake for 30 minutes.

The soft texture of the sweet rye pastry is delicious with blackberries. In Finland the blueberry cock is often served with vanilla custard, that would also be perfect for the blackberry version. Serve the pie warm or cold.

A delicious slice of black berry cock.. yum!

A delicious slice of black berry cock.. yum!

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September 22, 2012

Picking Blackberries and Blackberry Jam Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Blackberries are an abundant fruit in the Irish countryside

Shining and black, tightly packed and full of flavour. Each segment a tiny drupe, like a miniature stone fruit, they line the lanes and roadsides of the Irish countryside. Blackberries are abundant, their prickled stems arch over the hedgerows and back to the soil where each stem can take root at its tip and continue its colonization of the earth.

Blackberries, Rubus fruticosa are a bit of a  Jekyll and Hyde for gardeners, sometimes hated. Then it is called a bramble or a briar, a sharp prickled vigorous and multi-stemmed woody weed; Mr Hyde, wild vagabond and unwelcome. Brambles are sometimes loved. In September the sweet and juicy black fruits ripen to the darkest black, picked for jam making and delicious pies, then they are blackberries; Dr Jekyll, most welcome.

I have spent hours, days, maybe weeks chopping bramble stems in our garden. Gloved hands dragging their roots from the soil after vigorous hacking at their toots with a spade. It is a constant battle, more like war, where battles are sometimes won but the enemy always return to the same front or ambushes you somewhere else. Yet I love them, yes, I love my enemy.

Rubus fruticosa is a variable species and there are said to be hundreds of varieties occurring in the wild. Plants around our garden produce small hard fruits without great flavour so I take cuttings from plants that I find with good fruit. I will plant these into the woodland bordering our garden so I don’t have to travel looking for good berries in the future, reducing my carbon footprint! Until our new introductions of superior blackberries produce fruit, which will be a couple of years as they fruit on previous years growth, Hanna and I have been picking the fruit along the roads in our locality.

Rubus fruticosa – its a love hate thing!

One of the reasons I enjoy food foraging and discovering more about the edible properties of the wild plants that grow all around us is that It gives me a new respect for plants I previously called weeds. It also creates a link with the past. This is something our ancestors would have done. Foraged food played an important part of their diet. It also bring back fond memories of my childhood. I have happy memories, of purpled hands and face, plastic buckets filling slowly and the sweet taste of blackberries in my mouth. Sometimes I ate more than I picked on our family expeditions to the countryside, where we would walk along the country roads gathering the fruit, falling in ditches, getting scratched and dyed. Recently when visiting Turlough Monastery and round tower near Castlebar in Co. Mayo I tasted delicious berries. They were big, juicy and sweet. Picking berries beneath the towering presence of a thousand year old stone tower, watched by a statue of Jesus and passing by the old yew trees brought a connection of site and action that goes back to pre-christian Ireland where probably this old monastery was preceded by a holy site where our ancestors probably nibbled on a berry or leaf when they visited.

Round tower and blackberries -Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

You also have amusing encounters with people of the present when they see you picking berries. Last Monday on a country lane, we were filling our buckets ripe sweet fruit. A blue Nissan  car approached and slowed to a stop. An elderly local lowered the passenger side window, an amused look on his face. We greeted each other and he asked “ are ye gettin’ many?”. I replied, telling him that there were lots of berries, he laughed and said “they will have lots of maggots by now” and drove away.  Our relationship with the bramble in modern Ireland is a curious one, while the roadsides are filled with their free fruit, people buy farmed and imported blackberries instead, €3.95 for 250 grams! Last Monday we picked a small fortune of fruit in a couple of hours, and no maggots!



  • 2kg Blackberries
  • 3 cooking apples cored and chopped
  • 750 g of organic sugar
  • Juice of one large lemon
  1. In a  sauce pan I cooked the chopped apple  with about 150ml of water until the apple had gone to a soft pulp. (Leave on the skins if organic and remember to wash them well)
  2. In another larger saucepan I added 150ml of water and the blackberries and the juice of half a lemon.
  3. Cook the berries slowly until they have become soft this can take 20 to 30 minutes
  4. Then press the apple pulp through a sieve into the blackberries.
  5. Slowly add the sugar, stirring to help it dissolve.
  6. Turn up the heat and stir occasionally. The jam should be boiling really hard and it will splatter. I always leave the lid partially covering the pot to reduce the mess on the walls!
  7. The jam will start to thicken, when set you pour it from a wooden spoon it will form thick droplets that are slow to leave the spoon. I like my jams to have a little give, not like a jelly. This boiling stage will take about twenty minutes, a little more if you want your jam more set.
  8. Then transfer the jam into jars which have been sterilized.

I use my new jam funnel, it cost about €6.50 and it reduces the mess, in fact there is no mess and it speeds up the process of jar filling. I put on the lids immediately.From these quantities of ingredients I got eight jars.The best part of jam making is continually having to taste the jam before it is ready, making sure it is sweet enough and the fruit has softened, and the smell of the cooking fruit is delicious too.

My new jam funnel used here to fill pots when making plum jam.

Taxus baccata “Fastigiata’ _ Irish Yew and the round tower at Turlough, Castlebar, Co. Mayo, Ireland

April 18, 2011

Autumn Pudding with White Chocolate Sauce

by Ciaran Burke

It all started with a trip to a nursery. We went to purchase named female cultivars of our favourite berry plant, sea buckthorn, Hippophae rhamnoides. The nursery is Fruit and Nut, part of the Sustainability Institute in Westport, Co. Mayo.

We had selected three different cultivars, we already have a female plant and one male plant in our garden. We also had picked out a Jostaberry, a hybrid between a blackcurrant and a Gooseberry and two cultivars of Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas. We were chatting with Andy, the mind and the energy behind the nursery, sharing our enthusiasm for berry growing and the concept of woodland gardens when he asked us where we lived. As I described how to get to our garden he stopped me, and asked in disbelief if we knew his friends, they lived very close to us. Apparently they also shared a common interest in woodland gardening, we did not know them yet. he gave us their contact details and directions to their house, he was sure that they would want to meet us.

On our way home we decided to call in and meet our neighbours, people that lived so close to us with a common interest in gardening and woodland gardening in particular, yet we had not ever met them. We drove up their lane and parked outside their house. They were surprised to see a caller, we introduced ourselves, explained what had happened at the nursery. They asked us in. Cy and Cleo invited us to a “pudding evening” the following Thursday. “Pudding” is a term that English people use to mean dessert, not literally a pudding. We could make and bring anything as long it went along with the theme of Italian or Chocolate. We accepted.

What to make was the question. I decided to make an autumn pudding, from the freezer I could use elderberries, blackberries and sloes, all picked from the hedgerows in our locality last autumn. I had a cooking apple there too, and Hanna had been baking lots of spelt bread. We had all the ingredients, but to fit in with the theme of the evening gathering I would have to make an amendment; cover the finished autumn pudding with white chocolate! The tanginess of the fruit and dark colour of the pudding would both contrast with the sweet white chocolate, Green & Blacks would be perfect, not only organic but also they have a generous amount of vanilla pod in their white chocolate.

We made the pie the night before. Cooked up the fruit, sweeten with honey and fruit juice concentrate. took the crust off a number of slices of the homemade spelt bread and soaked them shortly in some apple juice. In a bowl we poured the cooked fruit and then pressed in the bread torn into pieces. Covered it and placed it in the fridge overnight. The following morning we made the white chocolate sauce.

One bar of chocolate was finely chopped. In a saucepan we melted a knob of butter, added 200ml of cream and heated to near boiling. This we then poured over the chopped chocolate and after letting it sit for a couple of minutes we stirred the mixture to fully melt in the chocolate pieces. After allowing to cool a bit, we spooned the chocolate sauce over the pudding. It looked fantastic, the creamy sauces dripping over the dark pudding, collecting in a pool around the base.With strong resolve we resisted having a taste and returned the dessert to the fridge.

We had a lovely evening with our new friends, and met more of theirs. Everyone had brought a dessert “pudding”. We tasted each others creations, sipped elderflower champagne, drank coffee and chatter. A lovely evening, four desserts and good company, does not get much better than that!

Autumn pudding with white chocolate sauce

Autumn Pudding Recipe

This recipe I had originally included on my other blog LINK


  • half cup of Stoned sloes
  • half cup of elder berries
  • 1 cup of blackberries
  • half cup of apples, peeled and cored
  • 150 ml of apple juice concentrate or 7 heaped teaspoons of honey
  • whole grain spelt bread, crust removed and cut into pieces

After the fruit has been cooked for about ten minutes transfer to a bowl and press the bread pieces into the mixture until the fruit is pulp is absorbed. Cover the bowl with a plate and place in the refrigerator over night.

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