Whilst skimming along a canal in Oxfordshire with my brother, his wife and their new (boat-shaped) home, the hedgerows all along are full of edible fruits. Ann Marie shared with me her recipe for mixed hedgerow jam.
Take a selection of some (or all) of the following – Rosehips, Haws (hawthorn fruit), Blackberries, Crab Apples (roughly chopped), Sloes, Damsons, Rowan, Elderberries. Place the fruit in a jamming pan (or huge saucepan) and cover three quarters with water. Heat until simmering, then cook slowly until mushy, stirring occasionally. Drip thorugh a jelly cloth overnight. Measure the liquid into a clean pan and add 1lb sugar to each 1 pint of juice. Boil until setting point is reached, then pour into sterilised jars.
If made with just red fruit (rowan, rosehips, haws) and crab apples this makes a beautiful clear dark pinkish jelly. Adding darker fruits will make a darker jelly. Ann Marie used the sloes lately strained from her Sloe Gin – I think that will make delicious jelly!
I don’t have any A levels or a degree, I’m not a botanist or a herbalist or an anything really! I just gather and eat wild food and tell people about it.
I met an archeologist who studies plant remains in digs – seeds etc that can be found by a process using water ( seeds float and soil / dirt / gravel does not). Now although this lady can identify plants by microscopically examining tiny seeds – very often plants which would have been eaten. We talked about food, and she asked me to lead a wild food walk, as she does not know what the actual plants look like in the ‘real’. I can’t wait – to learn from her what our ancestors would have eaten and how they would have processed food and to show her just how many wild plants can be eaten. I’m pretty sure even people in relatively recent history would have used their natural larder much more than we do toda.
I came across another example of the value of a mental ‘food map’ this week. Lots of people have been ‘boasting’ about their plum and damson crops and I was just a little jealous! Whilst I have lots of apple and pear trees the plum tree on my allotment is bare : (. But I remembered a couple of years ago picking plums at the edge of a footpath in area of town that no longer forms part of any of my daily journeys. So trekked over to the area with a big bag and picked loads and loads and loads of damsons. Of course I needed have bothered, cos as soon as my friends heard that I didn’t have any I was quickly given two carrier bags of damsons and one of beautiful Victoria plums!!
Another friend sent me the a link to the following blog http://www.cottagesmallholder.com which contains a receipe for Damson Vodka, as long as I promised to give her a small bottle when its finished (I did just happen to have a big bottle of vodka – as you do!) But then she got in touch a couple of days ago to say she had found a tree near to her andwould be making her own, so I don’t need to share!
I had a great day out at Carsington Water this week, and on my cycle around the (severly depleated) reseviour, I stopped along the way every so often and picked hazel nuts. Like looking for stars in the twilight, at first you can’t see them at all, but then you see one and then a couple more and then you realise the tree is full of them! Of course they are not ripe yet, but leave them much longer and the squirrels will have had them all! In fact on one tree they had all fallen and lots had been eaten by mice, but I picked what I could as these were much bigger and more like cob nuts.
For me, the best way to enjoy them, is hazelnut meringue, see post a couple of years ago for the receipe (Oct 2009) , but why not give hazelnut butter a go – an alternative to peanut butter! Dry fry 300g of shelled nuts for between 5 and 10 mins, shaking continuously to ensure they are evenly browned. Grind with a pestle and motar, add 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 sugar and very gradually add up to 1/2 tblsp vegetable oil until the butter becomes smooth. Store in jars and it will last for sometime in the fridge.
I was lucky enough to get a couple of days in the North Yorkshire Moors – the top left hand corner where it is nearly the Lake District, and unlike home in Derbyshire where it has been very dry and all the grass is parched and brown, the fields were lush and green like spring – it didn’t quite rain on us, but it was a ‘bit damp’!
As I tramped about in the hills I was amazed at the amount of chickweed, all fresh and green and just like spring, we were cooking on an open fire (beautiful simple camp site) so I could easily have gathered and cooked it very gently for just a few minutes (better if I had been able to add some chopped spirng onions or chives) with a little butter (no water) and just a squirt of lemon (or some sorrel if you find some of that as well)
I remember being amazed at how early the blackberries were last year, but this year they have exelled themselves – I have been picking and enjoying blackberries since the middle of July. And pretty special they are too – dark, sweet and juicy! Blackberry crumble is the way that I enjoy them best, but I thought I would share this gem of a reciepe with you for Bread and Blackberry pudding from the wonderful book ‘The Wild Gormets’.
Heat 450ml of milk until just before it boils, stir in 2 tblsp butter and then add 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, zest of a lemon, 2 eggs, 125g soft brown sugar and 4 tblsp brandy, remove from the heat and whisk. Take 8 slices of good white bread and cut into triangles, pour over the milk and allow to soak for 10 mins. Grease a dish and layer the bread and 100g blackberries – finishing with a layer of bread. Cook at 180 for about 30 mins. (The book gives instructions for cooking in a pan over an open fire!). Enjoy!