There's been a bumper crop of wild food this year with Sweet Chestnuts reaching a really good size. The kids and I have had some great walks up in the woods checking out the local produce, and kicking about in the leaves.
No big projects for a week or two, just wandering about and taking it all in.
Roasted chestnuts in the wood stove is definitely on the cards though :)
Fruit leathers are an alternative to jams and jellies, when wanting to preserve a glut of fruit. They are really tasty and great trail food too, lasting up to a year without the need for a heavy container.
You can make them without cooking up your fruit if its just the haws being used, by just mashing them all up with your hands and a small amount of water, then separating out the pips and most of the skins.
But this time I thought I would add in the crab (and 100g of elderberries to make up the weight of fruit needed) and follow the recipe below by Pam Corbin, explained in "Hedgerow" by John Wright.
500g of chopped crab apples
500g of Hawthorn berries
- Stew for 20 minutes
- Push mixture through a sieve, into a saucepan.
- Add 150g sugar, heat the mixture stirring until the sugar dissolves.
- Spread the fruit purée thinly onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and place in a low oven 50-60 deg C for 12-18 hrs. until dry and leathery.
You can roll up the leather in a clean piece of parchment paper and twist the ends of paper like a sausage, for storing up to a year if properly dried.
I tend to eat mine through the weeks after making it simply storing cut up sections in the fridge, then transferring to a small container when off camping.
Fruit purée on the left and pips, cores and skins on the right.
Dried and ready to go.
This batch has a lovely sharp taste from the crab mixed with sweetness from the other ingredients.
I've made this a few times now, and love to put it on my porridge and pancakes. Packed full of vitamin C, an excuse for a good walk, and really sweet. What is there not to like (well a few scratches but its all good fun)
Some of the hips I gathered were already going soft while others were rock hard.
Luckily boiling them up helps to soften the flesh and release the juices.
Separating the juice from the mush
Here is the recipe I followed, although I scaled mine down a bit because of the amount of hips gathered on the last trip. It was reprinted in the River Cottage Handbook - Hedgerow by John Wright. An excellent read and well worth buying if your into foraging. Its also floating around on the web. There are other ways to make it too, but I like the fact that even back in the war years people were bothered about preserving the vitamin content by following this method.
The directions given by the Ministry of Food during the war for 2 pounds (900gm) of hips.
Boil 3 pints (1.7 litres) of boiling water.
Mince hips in a course mincer (food processor) and put immediately into the boiling water.
Bring to boil and then place aside for 15 minutes.
Pour into a flannel or linen crash jelly bag and allow to drip until the bulk of the liquid has come through.
Return the residue to the saucepan, add 11/2 pints (852ml) of boiling water, stir and allow to stand for 10 minutes.
Pour back into the jelly bag and allow to drip.
To make sure all the sharp hairs are removed put back the first half cupful of liquid and allow to drip through again.
Put the mixed juice into a clean saucepan and boil down until the juice measures about 11/2 pints (852ml), then add 11/4 (560gm) of sugar and boil for a further 5 minutes. Pour into hot sterile bottles and seal at once.
If corks are used these should have been boiled for hour just previously and after insertion coated with melted paraffin wax.
It is advisable to use small bottles as the syrup will not keep for more than a week or two once the bottle is opened.
Store in a dark cupboard.
Source: The Hedgerow Harvest, MoF, 1943 and the BBC Radio 4 Website
The trees, bushes and woodland floor have all been groaning with seasonal food recently, so I decided to grab some while I had the chance. The baskets and containers helped to sort out the different sorts before preparing into various goodies. Ive used these containers before for gathering, and the bramble basket is great, but you cant beat an old army canvas respirator bag around the neck. It keeps your hands free and the stiffer bag, helps when throwing in the food.
The first thing of many I thought I would make this year was Rowan and Crab Apple Jelly.
I used, as is often the case, a recipe by Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. There's no point me rewriting it as its just fine as it is, so click on the link for the info :) Recipe
I scaled down the ingredients as I just wanted to try out one jars worth for a bit of practice this time round.
Its a really simple recipe to follow, and the fruit is easy to gather.
I think this might go down well with the haul of venison and game I have at the moment.