This quintessential autumn pudding is best made with foraged fruit – to make it even simpler, use good readymade pastry
When you pick blackberries in the autumn, and gather windfall apples to make this pie, quantity and variety of fruit do not much come into it. You make the best of what you have. This is the way it should be. This is how regional dishes once developed. People used what their garden and neighbourhood could provide. Sometimes a suggestion from a visitor or the arrival of a new ingredient with the development of trade and manufacture might give a new aspect to an old dish, with luck a new refinement, most likely – at least, in recent times – a short cut or substitute ingredient that did not improve it. I cannot help feeling that before the great bramley conquest – it was introduced in 1876 – blackberry and apple pie made with the windfalls of pippin or reinette varieties tasted much better. Nowadays, I use tart windfall Blenheim orange apples, and then after Christmas Belle de Boskoop. This is a real treat as we do not grow it in Wiltshire, and depend on the kindness of January visitors from France for an occasional supply.
With apples of this quality, you do not need so many blackberries (cookery books often give equal weights of each). If you are making the pie soon after picking blackberries, rather than from a store in the freezer, weigh them and add up to double their weight in apples.
Assuming you start with 1kg apples and ½kg of blackberries, put half the blackberries into a large saucepan. Peel, core and slice the apples, sprinkling them with lemon or orange juice to prevent them darkening: put the peel and cores into the blackberry pan and cover with water. Cook slowly at first, then faster as the juices run, so that you end up with about 150ml of strained liquid. Dissolve 200-250g of sugar in the liquid, the quantity according to the tartness of the fruit.
Pack the sliced apples and remaining blackberries in layers in a deep pie dish. Mound up the fruit in a curve above the rim of the dish. Pour the sweetened, cool juice over the whole thing. Cover in the usual way with shortcrust pastry. Brush over the top with egg white and sprinkle with caster sugar.
Put into the oven at 180C fan/gas mark 6 for 45-60 minutes depending on the depth of the dish. Turn the heat down slightly once the pastry is set firm and lightly coloured. Protect it with butter papers from becoming too brown. Test the apples with a thin pointed knife through the central hole in the pastry: when it goes through them easily, they are done. Serve with custard sauce or cream, preferably cream, clotted cream above all.