Foraged Feasts: Autumn and Winter
Foraging is great fun and you can find wild food to take home and cook all year round, not just in summer. If you’re going foraging, remember to keep to the rules:
- If you're unsure whether you’ve correctly identified a wild food, don't eat it.
- Don’t gather food from road or railway verges as it may be contaminated.
- Never damage a plant or tree when picking leaves or fruit and always leave as much on the plant as you pick, so that wildlife can enjoy the food too.
- Never leave litter and don’t trespass on private land.
- If you take a dog with you when you are foraging in winter, make sure it is under control as it may disturb hibernating wildlife or livestock.
Rowan Berry And Crab Apple JellyCrab apple jelly is delicious, even if the raw fruit is so bitter than it makes your mouth pucker when you bite it. Rowan berries are also unpleasant to eat raw – they have a floury texture but a very sour flavour. Put together they make a wonderful jelly to eat on toast or in the middle of a sponge cake and both fruits can be found free in the countryside in autumn.
- 1 kilo crab apples
- 1 kilo rowan berries
- 1 lemon
- 2 large saucepans
- Jelly bag
- Jars with lids
MethodNote that you can make this recipe with just crab apples as they have plenty of pectin but not with only rowan berries as they have very little.
Wash the rowan berries and take out any stalks. Put them in one of the saucepans with half a lemon and enough water to just make the berries begin to float. Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer, cooking until they are very soft. This can take anything up to an hour. You can speed up the process by using a potato masher after about 30 minutes to break the berries down.
Repeat this method with the crab apples and the other half of the lemon. There is no need to peel the apples but cutting them in half can encourage them to cook quickly.
Pour the contents of the two pans into the jelly bag once they are cool enough to handle. The easiest way to do this is to put the bag in a colander and the colander in a large bowl. When you pour in the contents of the pans you can then lift and hang the bag if you have a suitable hook as this makes it strain more quickly and it will be ready in around four hours, or just leave it in the colander in which case you need to leave it overnight as it strains more slowly.
Don’t squeeze the bag because it will make your jelly cloudy.
Measure the resulting strained juice – called syrup – back into one of the saucepans and add 450 grams of white sugar for each 600 ml of syrup.
Stir well until the sugar has completely dissolved then bring it to a boil and cook fast using a jam thermometer for three minutes at the jam temperature or until setting point is reached which you can test by pouring a teaspoon full onto a chilled saucer, leaving for a minute and seeing if it wrinkles when you push the surface. If it does, it’s ready to pot.
Blackberry Butter CrumpetsThis simple recipe is even more delicious if you have some crab apple and rowan berry jelly to spoon on top!
Pick as many blackberries as you can, pick over, wash and pat dry. For each person put 25 grams blackberries in a large bowl with 7 grams icing sugar and 7 grams unsalted butter per portion of blackberries. Beat together lightly with a wooden spoon. Pile on top of a toasted crumpet and top with jelly or a spoonful of vanilla yoghurt.