This Summer, one of the items highest up my July to do list was to visit our local Pick Your Own fruit farm here in Edinburgh. Last Summer we mistimed our trip and visited the lovely Belhaven Fruit Farm in East Lothian when the fruit was just past its best and so required some searching; this year I was determined to make the most of Scotland’s soft fruit season by visiting earlier. Enter Craigie’s Farm in Dalmeny, which we visited last Autumn and I was even more excited to see at the height of Summer’s glut. It certainly didn’t disappoint. From blackcurrants to gooseberries, blackberries to cherries – as well as the expected strawberries and raspberries – Craigie’s is heaven for seasonal Summer fruits. Simply keep an eye on the website and information on your arrival to see what’s best, where and when on the large site. Even the strawbs, which were noted as ‘be prepared to search’ were plentiful in the central areas of the polytunnels.
With a little teamwork, we quickly filled our baskets – be sure to read the instructions for roughly how much will fit in each of the vessels they provide you with, and the prices, as you can’t return what’s picked and you might get a surprise at the till! That said, the fruit is reasonably priced for the exceptional quality, and there is something so deeply satisfying about picking the fruit yourself. They were all delicious but my absolute favourites were the brambles, which were just emerging when we visited a few weeks ago so should still be fruiting. Much more like the wild variety in taste than anything you will find at the supermarket! After a yummy snack from their café, which boasts delicious homemade food and local, speciality produce (I’m a fan of Summerhouse lavender lemonade!) we headed back home to get started on our haul.
When faced with it all I wondered briefly if we had eyes bigger than our stomachs and had picked too much – but with some strategising, it was all soon used up in the most delicious of ways. I started with the fruits that would spoil first if left unattended too long: the strawberries and raspberries. I’ve made Katie of Lavender and Leeks’ delicious strawberry and elderflower jam for a couple of years now and its twist on the classic preserve always hits the spot, plus the addition of an apple makes for a lovely set. This was my standout favourite from our day in the kitchen! Next, I made raspberry jam without bits, as there are a few in my family that aren’t fans. This recipe was easy to follow. Pink gooseberry jam was up next, made with a classic River Cottage recipe.
It’s not all about the jam though – we also made Gill Meller’s blackcurrant cordial, which is far more delicious than the well known brand; I urge you to try making your own! Lastly, classic bramble jelly: I used a Delia Smith quick bramble jelly recipe, which doesn’t keep as long but tastes just as delicious and saves time with an all-in-one-then-sieve method. It looks quite liquid but sets like magic. The last few brambles (which weren’t used for chef tax purposes) ended up in some delicious brownies, the recipe for which I will be sharing soon. Once you’ve made your own preserves, there’s truly no going back. I’ve got the preserving bug and there’s still Autumn’s glut to come!
Have you visited your local Pick Your Own? What have you been preserving this Summer?