While the wet weather has pretty much done for the blackberries around here this year, some of the other hedgerow fruits seem to be going from strength to strength, there’s still rose coloured crab apples on the trees, and the rosehips and haws (the red berries on the hawthorn bushes) are having a very good year, the hedgerows are fair heaving with them.
We’ve got dog roses and apple roses growing within a few hundred metres from home, and what’s nice is that no cars can drive along where they are growing so it’s safe to forage. While I think everyone knows what a dog rose or wild rose hip looks like, the apple rose are those sort planted by councils that smell amazing in the Summer, like Turkish Delight. The hips they form are round and about an inch wide.
While I plan to make some rosehip syrup I thought I’d make up another batch of crab apple jelly, but a sweet version this time so I picked some rosehips and haws to make a fruit jelly packed full of vitamin C.
I gave the rosehips a good rinse in cold water and then dried them off before topping and tailing them, discarding the tops and tails for the compost and saving the rest. (If you have sensitive skin you may want to wear a pair of CSI style gloves as the yellow hairs around the hip’s seeds are an irritant and can be used to make a type of itching powder).
The haws were also rinsed off and patted dry on some kitchen roll before I carefully picked off their tiny stalks. If the other end is particularly “scrubby” then you can cut this off or pinch it out with your nails. You shouuldn’t eat the seed inside the haw but the flesh of the berry is edible, it has the texture somewhat of a ripe avocado but not I think the taste.
Both the rosehips and haws need longer cooking time than the crab apples so to begin with I cooked those first with some water, allowing the fruit to simmer for about half an hour so they’d become somewhat softer before tumbling in the prepared crab apples. If I’d had any rose geraniums then I’d have popped in a couple of leaves from those for a more rose flavoured jelly. In all the fruits had about an hour cooking time while they gently simmered.
Rather than use a jelly bag on a stand (all the ones I’ve seen look remarkably wobbly) I prefer to strain the fruity pulp through an old pillow case (though you could easily make one from a double layer of cheesecloth) and hang the pillowcase up from a step ladder so the juice can drip into a bowl set underneath. If I was patient then I’d leave it to drip overnight………I’m not and gave it about 7 or 8 hours before I ended up squeezing the bag.
On squeezing the jelly bag
If you leave the jelly bag (or pillowcase) alone you’ll get a clearer juice that will make for a stunningly clear fruit jelly, the sort that wins big rosettes at village fetes…however if like me you aren’t so fussed and are more concerned with making a couple of extra jars of jelly then go ahead and squeeze that bag by all means.
Rosehip and haw jelly…
In all I used just under 200 g of haws, 500 g of rosehips and then about 2300 g of crab apples. For every 100 g of fruit I used 65 ml of water. This was the ratio of fruit to water I used for the crab apple jelly I made last week and so I used that here.
Once the juice is all strained (or squeezed) it’s time to add the sugar. Sugar to juice is 3:4 so if you use 300 g of sugar you want 400 ml of juice.
Gently heat the sugar and juice together until the sugar is all dissolved and then turn up the heat and bring to a rolling boil before checking for a set.
I don’t use preserving sugar , I find the jelly sets perfectly with granulated sugar (it’s also a lot cheaper).
Because the wild fruits tend to have a bit more pectin they always seem to produce a lot of white foamy scum, scrape this off before bottling up your jelly.
This is a really lovely tasting jelly, it’s very fruity and because it’s made using hedgerow fruits the flavour is hard to place, I think it’s sort of orangey and can only imagine how nice this would be on doorstep sized slices of white bread and butter, or used to fill breakfast croissants. I like making bread and butter pudding in the winter (always good for using up odd pieces of bread) and tend to spread a little marmalade on the bread and butter slices along with a sprinkle of vanilla sugar, next time I make it I’m thinking to try out this jelly rather than marmalade. And the colour is wonderful, it’s a deep amber and even though is rather “cloudy” it’s no less beautiful.
What’s so nice about this preserve is that it isn’t one you’re very likely to find on any shop shelf, and it’s made using wild fruit that’s all come from a few hundred metres of my home.
At the start of the week I made a sponge for bread with some sourdough starter but then various other things took over and I realized the bread wasn’t going to get made after all. The sponge was placed in a cool room and just left alone until the next day before I added any of the other ingredients. I was a bit apprehensive but the dough felt lovely to kneed, the sponge had a stronger smell and was stickier to begin with. The dough proved and rose fine though we thought the bread was paler in colour when it came out of the oven. My boyfriend assures me it tastes lovely, a little more robust perhaps than the usual bread. I’ve forgotten “sponges” before made with dried yeast or fresh yeast in little cubes and have walked in on overflowing bowls or yeast sitting there looking very sad and miserable, the ability of the natural starter to cope with last minute crop ups or even the scattiest of minds makes me love using it even more.
And finally, the vegetarian gravy. At least once a week we have roast vegetables and I tend to roast the onions and mushrooms in a separate pan from anything else. When I was cleaning one of the pans a while back I thought how rich and nice smelling the vegetable juices were, and with a little extra something added, would I was sure, make a very rich gravy….. Possibly the thing I miss most being a vegetarian is nice gravy, I’ve tried numerous recipes and have bought umpteen different pre-prepared ones or ones in little card boxes that you just add water to…all fail to please. So this week I roasted a couple of onions in a large pan (they really need a large pan to make a nice sticky area), with just a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt, then when they’d gently browned, I added a couple of spoons of the herby crab apple jelly and some water from a hot kettle and stirred, then left it in the bottom of the oven over night. Next day I had a little taste (so good) then liquidized the onions and the gravy so it became a thick sauce before adding a bit more water and bringing up to the heat. Along with some vegetarian sausages and a big serving of hot vegetables it was a more than perfect supper on a very cold and wet evening.
Next time I’m going to try it using onions and mushrooms together to get an even more deeper flavour. I didn’t need to add cornflour or anything to thicken it, and even the boy had a second helping.