Foraging is quite a seize-the-day activity. It’s September, which means the trees and hedgerows are laden with various types of berries. Elderberries, blackberries, plums, damsons, sloes, and the slightly less popular neighbour rowan berries. Trying to juggle three different job roles, and travelling around 1.5 hours each way for work at the moment (thank goodness I have a day working from home though each week!) is not an unusual story for a 20-something trying to define a career in a role that they love. Which reminds me… I have been meaning for quite a while to give my 2 cents on the topic of ‘dream jobs’. My journey could admittedly be shortened a little if I drove, but I’d prefer to get the exercise of cycling and save the Morris Minor from journeying into Worcester daily, especially considering I sit in front of a computer a lot of the time. This all adds up to mean that a) I don’t like being on the computer in the evening, b) I’ve usually fallen asleep by about 9pm and c) as a consequence I’m not blogging and foraging as much as I’d like. Keeping my blog going is the biggest challenge it has ever been. But it’s as important as ever to keep this little piece of Charlie-ness alive! And it’s all worth it, because last week I got to write a newspaper article about a Victorian engraving I found in the art store of the ‘White Witch of Worcester’ and the story around it. I mean that’s a cool job, is it not? Anyway, there are still quite a lot of quick and easy autumn foraging activities that I haven’t yet blogged about (such as chucking sloes & sugar into gin – next on the list!) and this is one of them.
So back to Rowan. I associate small red berries with danger. And you certainly wouldn’t want to eat these particular berries raw – your tummy would not be your friend. But rowan berries, which grow everywhere by the way (they’re particularly a car park character) can be made in a rather sharp jelly, which ideally goes with meats and cheeses. So although I’m not finding a lot of foraging time right now, instead I’m setting the more manageable task of preparing a few foraged goodies early for Christmas. Can’t wait to see how this goes down with the family. Last year, pickled walnuts were our foraged Christmas treat of choice.
You can find recipes easily for this but I didn’t really use one. Essentially a jelly goes like this:
- Firstly, boil the berries along with a couple of scrumped apples (or crab apples) until mushy.
- Leave in a straining cloth over a bowl over night. Do not squeeze this bag, unless you want a cloudy jelly (and admittedly waste less of the juice).
- The next day, add sugar to your infused liquid at the ratio of one pint of juice to 1 pint of granulated sugar.
- Heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil until at jam setting temperature (around 20 minutes max) or just drop a bit of the hot jelly onto a saucer which has been in the freezer, and test to see whether after about 30 seconds the skin wrinkles when you prod it (i.e. it starts to set).
- Pour into jars sterilised with hot water or Campden tablets (named after the place where I’m living!).
As with all things foragy, start looking and you’ll see these trees everywhere! Picture above shows them growing in the centre of Chipping Campden. Obviously I didn’t pick it from there ;). If the weather stays like this for September, I definitely have no excuse not to get out and gather…