We are at the height of the bilberry season and there’s a glut of the sweet-sharp, tiny little berries out on the moors. Drive out along Ringinglow, stop the car when you get to the heather and the nearest bilberry won’t be far away.
Picking them is reasonably easy if you have a bilberry comb (see picture below), a plastic box with ‘teeth’ on one side which rakes the berries off the twigs and stores them until you can shake them into a suitable container, usually an old ice cream container. I got my comb from the ironmongery shop on Sharrowvale Road.
It’s not hard but, then, nothing is too easy: be prepared for midges, backache and juice stained hands and clothes. Don’t go out in your Sunday best!
So what are you going to do with them when you’ve picked a pound or two? Here are six ideas below. Another Helping welcomes other ideas for bilberries.
*Bilberry Jam: Cook 2lb of fruit with a tablespoon of water until soft (not long), add 2lb sugar, stir until dissolved, bring to boil until set. Plenty of natural pectin but a tbspn of lemon juice will heighten flavours.
*Bilberry pie: wash, pick out leaves and twigs and use as pie filling, with or without apple or other fruit. Add a tablespoon of sugar.
*Bilberry gin: Lightly crush 1lb washed bilberries and put in jar. Add 75cl of gin, 4 tbsps of sugar (or to taste), shake to dissolve and leave for at least three months. Strain, bottle and drink. Do not discard berries which will make . .
*Drunken bilberry jam (bilberry gin jam): Proceed as for bilberry jam
*Use alongside or in place of blackcurrants in summer pudding
*Sprinkle on your cereal or porridge
FOR hints on how to use the bilberry comb see http://wp.me/p5wFIX-fm