Most of the jellies I’ve made this year have been combinations of crab apples, haws and rosehips. All of these grow in the hedgerows that dot and line the village I live in (it’s about a forty minute walk to the city so not far from excellent coffee and a brilliant local bookshop)…certainly within a couple of hundred metres from my front door I have the ingredients to make a beautiful fruity tasting breakfast preserve (it’s really quite orangey tasting and being full of rosehips I’ve convinced myself it’s a health food…bursting full of vitamin C)
This year seems to be a bumper harvest year for the wild rosehips and although I saw them in flower I’m amazed at how many there are.
I’m very lucky because these all grow along the side of grass paths, and children’s play-areas, there are no cars nor are there fields being sprayed with goodness knows what so I feel very safe foraging here. I try not to take too much from any one spot, even though I don’t see anyone else ever picking (I think I’m known as the girl with a basket* by some of my elderly neighbours) but there’s a lot of wildlife here, no end of squirrels, various little mice, birds and foxes, and where I have the ability to pop down the shops when I’m hungry the hedgerows really are their pantry, their life source over the cold months (especially now most winters aren’t properly cold enough for small animals to hibernate properly) so they really need those berries.
Along with using wild rosehips I’ve also used apple rosehips, these are from some beautiful turkish delight scented roses that grow behind our house near a play- ground (there are so many little parks and places for small children to play it’s brilliant, though I always feel sorry for older children as there is nowhere really for them to hang out). In the Summer months the rose bushes are a mass of wide open bright pink flowers, they really capture the sun and smell amazing.
Once Autumn starts creeping up, the petals have fallen and the hips have swollen and become round and fat, about the size of cherry tomatoes. I try to just pick the firm ones though a few softer ones seem to end up in the bowl as well as the odd ladybug.
There were still loads of elderberries about when I picked these (from the same trees where I picked the flowers for cordial back at the end of the spring)..my walking stick (a bargain from the charity shop and I rarely go foraging without it) comes in very handy, helping me to pull down the higher branches which are covered with heavy heads of black elderberries.
Elderberries are anti-viral and are high in vitamin C so are a really good addition to any winter syrup recipes.
Along with the elderberries there are also a couple of nicely placed rowan trees nearby so a few bunches of orangey coloured berries were also picked to add a little more flavour and depth to the syrup.
Like the rosehips and elderberries, rowan berries are high in Vitamin C and are very good for the immune system.
It’s not only the odd ladybug that travels home with me when I’ve been foraging, when I was picking over the elderberries I found this wee fellow.
Now I know he’s going to grow up all big and fat and eat my nice winter greens but he was the tiniest little snail I think I’ve ever seen and I just didn’t have the heart to squash him (or fling him over the fence) instead he was carefully placed near the compost bin where there is plenty of greenery (but not our Kale or sprouting broccoli)
Making the syrup took a couple of days (I spent nearly a day preparing all the fruit, topping and tailing the rosehips, pinching out the scubby ends of the haws, carefully removing the elderberries (which I found easier not using a fork…)..at this point having the radio on was a big help as it is a bit of a thankless task and seems to take ages.
I half followed a rosehip syrup recipe but used a little less water as I was using apples and elderberries and they have a lot of their own juice. The fruit simmered until everything was soft, then it’s strained twice before it’s bought to a boil with sugar.
Hedgerow fruit (rosehips, haws, rowan, elderberries and crab apples/wildings)
Wash and dry your fruit. Top and tail the rose hips. Remove the scrubby bottoms of any haws. Quarter any crab apples (chop smaller any large ones), remove all the stalks from the elderberries.
Weigh your fruit.
I prefer to use mostly rosehips, then haws, rowan berries, elderberries and crab apples in no particular order, just as they are picked.
Weigh the rosehips, haws and rowan berries. These want to make up the main bulk of the fruit.
For every 100g of these you want to add a 100ml of water.
With the apples and elderberries, for every 100g of those then add 65ml of water.
Simmer the red fruits first for about half an hour so that they soften before adding the apples and elderberries and their required water.
Simmer for a further half an hour until everything is soft and mushy.
Empty the fruit pulp into a jelly bag (or old pillowcase) and allow the juice to drip for an hour or so. (I’m a bag squeezer, whether you squeeze is up to you)
Empty the pulp and weigh it, for every kilo of mixed fruit pulp you want to use about a litre of water. Put the pulp and water into a clean pan and bring to a simmer, let it cook gently for about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and empty into a jelly bag. Allow the juice to strain through for an hour or so. (again it’s up to you whether you squeeze the bag when it’s stopped dripping.)
Combine the two liquids and measure.
For every litre of liquid you want 500g of white granulated sugar.
In a clean pan bring the liquid to a gentle boil, carefully add the sugar.
Gently heat so the sugar completely dissolves before turning up the heat and bringing to a rolling boil and let roll for about 7 mins.
Turn off, remove any scum that appears and pour into sterilized preserving bottles.
If you run out of preserving bottles then add more sugar, bring the syrup back to a rolling boil and cook until it thickens up as it will then become a jelly and pour into sterilized jam jars.
Store in a dark cupboard away from the light. The syrup will keep for some months but once opened keep in the fridge and use within 10 days.
I love the colour of the syrups, even if I didn’t know they were full of goodness and Vitamin C, I think just looking at those amber, jewel like oranges and that rich dark claret coloured syrup would do me the wole world of good if I was feeling peaky or under the weather.
The syrup can be taken to relieve sore wintry cough throats (a few neat spoonfuls throughout the day), but also as a cordial with water, as a hot drink with warm water, it can be stirred into yoghurt for breakfast or whisked into cream and made into wintry fruit fools. It’s also nice poured over apples before they’re covered with a crumble topping and baked in an oven.
The best places I found for preserving bottles were my local ironmongers (the cheapest shop for Kilner products) and also my local Lakeland Plastics where the sloe gin bottles were only £4 and they hold 500ml.
Once the bottles had cooled I stuck on lables as I know I’ll never remember which syrups were which otherwise.