Living directly off the gifts my Land has to offer is something I am becoming more and more passionate about. I am not fortunate enough to own enough land to become self sufficient, although I do grow a few vegetables and soft fruits to compliment the occasional meal and there is no better way (in my humble opinion) to connect with the cycles of nature than growing your own. Furthermore by harvesting food directly from the land and dedicating time and effort to growing even a few varieties of fruit and vegetables we can gain a small insight into the mindset of our distant ancestors, those who relied entirely on Mother Nature to provide their entire food supply every day of the year. It isn’t of course quite the same for us, if our crops fail we can totter down to the Supermarket, we wont starve, yet speaking from personal experience there is still an attachment one builds to ones crops…usually accompanied by a genuine feeling of disappointment if your seeds don’t germinate or the plants dont bear fruit.
There is however alternatives…at this time of year out int he wilds there is an abundance of fruit slowly ripening. Here in the south-east the unusually warm spring seems to have brought everything on early and in great abundance, a sure sign that the winter is likely to be as harsh as the last!
On my last foraging expedition i was lucky enough to stumble upon a crab apple tree and where i work the roads are lined with Rowan trees which look absolutely stunning this time of year. I fully exploited the great abundance of fruit these 2 particular trees have to offer and decided to experiment with Jelly Making.
Having collected a small amount of fruit from both the Rowan and Crab Apple trees (I never take more than i need for 2 reasons, first being I hate waste and secondly I don’t like stripping a tree and potentially depriving the local fauna of adequate food!) i sorted and washed the fruit. I found a simple ‘Berry Jelly’ recipe online which can be applied to all fruits and is perfectly suited to the fruits of the hedgerow (Sloes, Haws, Elderberries, Blackberries, Wild Gooseberries, Rowan, Crab Apple and so on).
Having never made Jelly before (and never even tasting crab apple or rowan) i decided i would use this opportunity to experiment. I would make one small batch of Crab Apple Jelly, One small batch of Rowan Jelly and a small batch of a mixture of the two.
Once the fruit was well washed i divided the fruit into 3 portions of roughly equal weights.
I first cut my batch of crab apples in half (i left the skin on) and placed in a pan with about a cup of water and brought to the boil. I found i had to keep adding water. I was aiming for a gloopy pulp.
Having achieved what I thought looked the right consistency was reached I strained the pulp through 3 or 4 layers of Muslin in a sieve.
I left this overnight. The next day i was somewhat disappointed with the amount of liquid so i squeezed out as much as i could. They say that this will produce a cloudier Jelly but will not impinge on falavour…what the heck!
I decided to split the liquid again into two, one I would leave plain and one I added half a cinnamon stick and about 7 cloves. I brought these 2 portions to the boil again and added sugar (about 1 lb Sugar to 1 pint liquid scaled up or down as necessary). As Crab apples are naturally very high in Pectin (the setting agent) i probably didn’t need Lemon but i added the juice of half a lemon to each just incase. I brought the syrup to a rolling boil testing the set by adding a drop onto a cold spoon, give the blob a push and if it wrinkles, it’s set.
Whilst I was doing this I made a start on the rowan berry jelly, following the same process. As Rowan Berries don’t have as much natural pectin I added one whole sliced lemon.
I had ample jars sterilizing. I use hot water mixed with a capful of baby stabilising fluid. Not the traditional method of sterilizing jars but it works for my mead making so I thought I would give it ago (in the name of culinary science!)
Once The Crab apple ‘syrups’ were set i decanted into the sterilised, dry jars and labelled.
The rowan berries took half the time to pulp down sufficiently and these were strained in exactly the same way as the Crab Apples.
I ended up with just under half a pint of Rowan Juice, i made this up to half a pint with red wineand brought to the boil with the required amount of sugar whilst getting the crab apple and rowan berry mix on the go.
When ready I poured the rowan jelly (which by this point had turned the most divine shade of blood-red) into jars, labelled and put to one side. To the crab apple and rowan mix i added the juice of half a lemon and half a lemon sliced (the crab apples should provide enough pectin but I didn’t want to chance it). I added about 12 lavender heads to this too.
When ready the mixture was strained as previously, The juice boiled with sugar till set then poured into sterilised jars.
The net result…..
Im going to leave these un opened for about a month…I did have sufficient left over to taste them all and needless to say my scientific side considered this a huge success!!!!
I’m now well and truly satisfied that i can scale these recipes up next year and im definitely going to try some different flavours as the Hedgerows provide more and more as summer draws to a close (i never thought id be so excited by the prospect of summer ending!!)
(Apologies for the quality of some of these Photos…my iPhone Camera Lens clearly needs a bit of spit and polish!)