Monday, October 10, 2011

Feasts and Festivals: Devil's Blackberry Day

In the interests of full disclosure, Devil's Blackberry Day could very well be September 29th. At one time (before the calendar change), Michaelmas was on October 10th and the archangel Michael is credited with kicking Lucifer out of heaven, which caused a very pissed-off Satan to land in the middle of a blackberry bush (which, I suppose, did nothing to improve his mood). A legend arose that no one should eat blackberries after this time each year because the devil spit on the blackberry bush in which he landed and that spit magically reappears every year on October 10th.*

Now for the botanical evidence--
In mid-October a nasty creature called a flesh fly lays eggs on blackberries in a saliva-like substance and besides being disgusting, the eggs are mildly poisonous.** Gross, right? So, I've decided to leave Devil's Blackberry Day on its old date and warn all of you lovely people not to go around picking blackberries after the flesh flies have landed on them. It's my service to humanity for the day.


There's also an old Cornish belief that the weather today determines the weather for the upcoming winter. Warm and windy? Mild winter. Wet? Stormy winter.* How's your winter going to be? I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a mild winter in south central Kansas. We've had multiple blizzards and ice storms every year I've been here.

Cattern Cakes and Lace suggests making blackberry jelly from blackberries picked just before Devil's Blackberry Day. Since I'm almost never able to find decent fruit here (even organic, farmers market, etc.), I decided to use frozen blackberries. Are you ready to see how much jelly $7 of organic frozen blackberries makes?

Yup--that's an 8 oz. jar. Sad, huh? I could have bought a jar of the imported French stuff for lots cheaper. :-(

If you've got some blackberries around the house and aren't up to jelly-making, may I suggest:
Blackberry Recipes *"October 10: Devil's Blackberry Day" in Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, Cattern Cakes and Lace: A Calendar of Feasts (London: Dorling Kindersley, 1987), 107.
**"Monday 19th September 2011" in Pontifications on Poison at The Poison Garden Website (http://www.thepoisongarden.co.uk/blog/blog190911.htm).

Vintage blackberry image from the Graphics Fairy.

22 comments:

  1. Oh dear, that's too bad about the jam. Blackberries are my favorite fruit and I love blackberry jam. At least you can make the tray cake and pie. :) Interesting post!

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  2. I learned that tiny bags of frozen fruit don't make a good amount--I needed bushels of fruit!

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  3. Karen @ Lavender and LovageOctober 10, 2011 at 2:24 PM

    GREAT post and I DO love that book! I mentioned this day on my Michaelmas post on the 29th September.....lovely looking blackberry photos too........Karen.XX

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  4. Great info on Devil's Blackberry Day. I'd never heard this legend before. That little bit of jelly is just sad and $7 to boot!

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  5. It seems like Devil's Blackberry Day and Michaelmas really ought to be the same day, but I liked that the nasty flesh flies arrived at about the same time as the old date for Devil's Blackberry Day! Of course, I'm not a stickler for particular dates! Maybe September 29th to October 10th should be Devil's Blackberry week-ish?

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  6. What a crazy legend! But I'm glad you shared it, Lauren~

    Making jelly is quite an accomplishment...I'd love to sample your pricey, yet delicious version, on my morning toast.

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  7. Love the trivia! And I'm certainly in the mood for blackberry pastry.

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  8. I love blackberries. Have them as much as possible when they're in season and my budget allows me to. :) I just love them sprinkled on cereal or ice cream. I've been dying to make a blackberry crisp but just haven't gotten around to it.

    Great post, Lauren!

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  9. I love blackberries! We have a bush in our backyard and I have a massive bag of berries that we froze during the summer. I may have to try some of your recipes with them :)

    (Actually technically most of the ones I have aren't blackberries. My neighbors raspberry bush and our old blackberry bush got together and made a black-raspberry bush. Just as delicious as normal blackberries but with smaller seeds!)

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  10. SilverscreensuppersOctober 11, 2011 at 7:13 AM

    Aw that's sad! Beautiful jar though. I've just been at the Women's Institute Real Jam Festival for the whole weekend - it was AMAZING! Full report today or tomorrow over at Silver Screen Suppers! Jx

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  11. Thanks! :-) You'd better get over here quick--it's not going to last much longer!

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  12. I'm sure at least one of your old gadgets is capable of whipping one up, right? :-)

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  13. Oh I would so prefer that. I love blackberry jelly, but I don't actually like eating blackberries because of the seeds!

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  14. Lucky you! I'll come check out your report!

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  15. ThecatsandtheberriesOctober 11, 2011 at 10:21 AM

    Yummy! Though that bit about the flesh flies on blackberries is a bit alarming. There are wild blackberries growing all around Oxford, and my classmates have been picking them off and eating them on the spot! I will have to pass on the warning... That blackberry and apple pie looks so delicious!
    - Emily

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  16. I'm hoping the flesh fly goo is readily apparent to the naked eye--but I don't have a lot of experience with blackberries not from the freezer case. Just tell your friends to keep an eye out!

    Hope you're enjoying Oxford! Have I mentioned yet how jealous I am? Oh, just a hundred times already? ;-)

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  17. LOL - I adored this legend - so funny. I believe you on the flies though! Great looking jelly.

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  18. It's amazing how much fruit cooks down...you do need to start with bushels. Enjoy your jelly - I'm sure it's absolutely delicious! An interesting bit of history, too.

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  19. I thought it would be like when I made strawberry preserves and I've have about a pint or so--totally forgetting, of course, that jellies are strained!

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  20. in the UK we don`t have seasons anymore so one day in autumn or winter will be warm and the next cold, I never know if I am coming or going, I wish we could have real seasons.

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