Autumn is the time for fruitfulness. The hedgerows are a free food bonanza abounding with different fruits & nuts. So, a foraging I will go & who doesn’t like food for free?
I remember – just – as a child, my maternal Grandmother, a country woman born & bred. had a large Japonica bush, growing under a front room window. How I loved the beautiful pink flowers it produced during the summer months. My Grandmother however, didn’t have time for growing things you couldn’t eat, to her, the Japonica bush earned it’s keep in the autumn, by producing its fruits, which she turned into a delicate translucent pink jelly, which was served at tea time, with huge floury scones. I can still taste them today.
Walking my faithful hound the other morning, we passed trees laden with cob nuts, sloes elderberries, cooking apples, tiny crab apples & mulberries. Wild red currants & white currants dangled in tempting clusters, while brambles were covered in fat juicy blackberries, some white & pale pink, awaiting more sun to ripen them, others the deepest, darkest maroon, just begging to be picked.
We all know the old favourites Blackberry & Apple Pie/Crumble, Elderberry Wine etc but what about some of the more unusual things you can make with your foraged food?
Below are a couple of recipes you might like to try. Hopefully they may encourage you to get out into the countryside & enjoy the fresh air, knowing that on your return you have that feel good factor from the exercise & the means to produce some delicious, home-made goodies. They will also make, well received, Christmas presents.
ELDERBERRY SYRUP. GF/DF/V/Vegan
2.25 kg Ripe Elderberries. Weight when stripped from stalks
600 ml Water
1 small egg white, whipped to a froth. ( For Clarifying)
Wash the berries, crush lightly. Place in a large oven proof casserole (Not metal) with the water. Cover & place in a low (160c/180f /Gas 3) oven until the fruit is pulpy.
Strain through a jelly bag. Measure the juice, allowing 325 g sugar per 600 ml.
Place the juice in a saucepan, with the frothy egg white & bring to the boil, whisking occasionally. When boiling, remove all the scum & froth& add sugar. Reboil, skimming frequently, allow to simmer 3-4 mins.
Remove a couple of tablespoons of the syrup, set aside to cool to test the thickness of the syrup. Continue to simmer if necessary.
Pour into sterilised bottles, adding a teaspoon of brandy to each bottle. Seal & store.
Use as a drink, diluted with water or soda ( full of Vit C), or best of all add a small measure to your favourite Gin & top up with tonic. Cheers.
Here is a recipe to use up those windfall apples, or those you have foraged from the hedgerows.
HERB JELLY GF/DF/V/Vegan
Washed, unpeeled & uncored apples. Roughly chopped up.
450 g Preserving sugar (warmed) for each pint of juice.
83 ml Water.
124 ml wine vinegar.
Pared rind & juice of one lemon.
Large Bunch of herbs of your choice. Mint, Lemon Thyme, Basil, Lemon Balm, Marjoram etc Leaves removed from stalks. Tie stalks together, finely chop leaves.
Place the apples in a large casserole container (No metallic) & stand in a pan of water, on the hob. Simmer, until the apples are reduced to a pulp.
Strain the juice through a jelly bag, add the water at the end. (Do not squeeze the bag as you will make the jelly cloudy).
Boil the strained juice for 20 mins, add the warmed sugar, stirring all the time until dissolved.
Add the herb stalks, lemon rind & juice, and vinegar to the jelly & boil for a further 7 mins. Test for setting. Add the finely chopped leaves to the jelly. Pot into sterilised jars.
These jellies are delicious served with hot or cold, meats & pies. They can also be served as a side to the cheese board & the basil jelly make a particular tasty side to tomato based dishes.
So guys, happy foraging & cooking. In addition to having food for free, you also know your products are preservative, colouring & additive free.