Tag Archives: wild food

A very hip jelly

I had my first jelly making experience today. For British readers: I do mean jelly, but not the wibble wobble kind, the stuff that comes in a jar. For American readers: I do mean jelly, but the kind that doesn’t have any fruity bits in. That’s if that’s what you get in American jelly. Frankly I’m not entirely sure what the scope of the word is in USian. Anyway, the jelly I made was rather unusual: rosehip and apple.

We have a large, ok overgrown, wild rose in our garden. Presumably it was once a cultivated variety, but the rootstock got out of control well before we moved here. Anyway, I’ve been meaning to take it out ’cause it’s in the bit of our garden that’s more about looks, but haven’t got around to it. Hence, as autumn comes on, we’ve got rather a large crop of rosehips waiting to be used. (Worth noting that wild roses can be found growing all over the place in hedgerows, in Britain at least, so you don’t need one in your garden.)

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This is what a kilo of rosehips looks like.

You can make rosehips into jelly by themselves, or added to apple (and if memory serves also crab apple). Picking the hips is a fair amount of work, as they are small and, if not rotten, fairly firmly attached to the plant stem. Still, I was able to gather (with some help from Becky) just under a kilogram of hips without breaking much of a sweat. Then of course you need to remove bits of dry leafy stuff (though I didn’t remove the funny little brown hairs from the end), and give them a wash.

To make the jelly, you cook the hips for a bit in some water: 300ml per 450g of hips. How long for? I’m not sure. My recipe book (Marguerite Patten’s Basic Basics) just says to cook for a short while, which I found rather unhelpful. Becky’s advice from making jelly with other fruits was 5-10 minutes, until soft enough to mash. Well, after 15 minutes the hips weren’t soft enough to mash and I didn’t want to overdo them, so I stopped there. But it is possible that they needed longer, as you’ll see.

Once cooked, you strain the hips through muslin, for 24 hours. In my case, I also cooked up a kilo of chopped apples from our tree (much less work to pick!), in a separate batch (since rosehips and apples have different cooking times – the apples only took about 5 minutes), and then added them to the straining bag.

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A kilo of apples. Or to put it another way, five apples.

I put 1.2 litres of water into this process, but once strained I only got 400ml of fruity liquid out. Not very impressive! I guess there must have been quite a lot of evaporation, despite me using a lid in the cooking process. Part of me wonders whether I would have got more juice out of the fruit if I’d cooked the hips for longer. But then again, rosehips don’t strike me as particularly juicy things.

Once you’ve strained the fruit, you just boil up the liquid with sugar, 450g sugar per 600ml of liquid. Cook it until it becomes properly gloopy. Becky’s test, which worked well enough, is to either drip the jelly from a spoon, in which case when it starts to fall off in big dollops rather than drips, it’s ready; or put a blob on the back of a spoon, and poke it, in which case when it forms a skin, it’s ready.

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The muslin takes the strain.

Once it’s ready you need to get it into a jar super-quick, as it will properly set after a fairly short while. Moreover, the jar needs to be hot, or it will crack from the heat of the jelly. And since the jar needs to be sterilised, the most efficient way to go is to get the jar wet and heat it in the oven while you’re boiling the jelly – thus sterilising it and heating it at the same time. This requires some pretty careful timing.

In our case we didn’t quite pull it off – the jelly was ready before the jars were. But we kept the jelly over a low heat while the jars finished off, so it worked out ok.

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A teeny tiny quantity of very tasty jelly.

Marguerite Patten reckons on about 750g of jelly per 450g of sugar/600ml of liquid put in. But we got significantly short of that, I’d say: 400ml yielded one and a half smallish jars of jelly. Not a great deal. But let me tell you, it is jolly tasty.

Foraging the Back Garden

We are well into the hungry gap now and until our perennial vegetables (well just Kale actually) are established we are supplementing our early cut and come again salad with foragings from the garden.

Lots of salad.  Yum Yum!

Lots of salad. Yum Yum!

[In the above salad is Fat Hen, Chickweed, Sorrel, Bloody Dock, English Mace and Mizuna]

I met the lovely Wild Food Forager a few months ago and she kindly popped round one afternoon to give us an edible tour of the weeds in the back garden. I didn’t want to pop some hemlock into lunch by mistake!

I learned a lot.  Thankfully I had properly identified Fat Hen and now we eat lots of it whilst waiting for the Spinach to come up.

Fat Hen

Fat Hen

There is also Chickweed (I’ve been pinching out the tops for our salads), Hogweed (I tried one of the young shoots – it tasted very green), Wild Sorrel, Nettles, Ground Elder (I probably won’t be eating a lot of that!), Goose grass (edible but barely!), Elderflowers, Rowan, Dogrose Blackberries and Cow Parsley.

Wildfoodforager was surprised we had no Comfrey (and so was I!) I think one of our plans for next year should be to plant some perhaps under the apple trees;  like nettles, they are so valuable for our composting system.

At the moment I’m letting the Fat Hen and Chickweed grow instead of weeding it.  It gets picked and eaten like any other herb/vegetable.  But I think that Josh and I might have a tussle over that 😉

The nettles won’t make it near the dinner table though – they are far too valuable for the compost heap.

All this has reminded me I own Food for Free and Weeds both by Richard Mabey.  Time to get reading I think!

Finally a picture of the new pigs. The previous pigs did so much digging that they actually created a wallow – they didn’t need to use it much living here in the Winter, but going into the Summer I think the new pigs are going to love it!

oink oink

oink oink