I absolutely love this time of year when natures jewels are ripe and ready for picking. Elderberries, blackberries and rowan mountain ash all grow nearby where I live so I am super lucky to have these to forage. I don’t think I have missed more than a handful of years since being a small child to pick blackberries. It’s almost a ritual. I think perhaps bordering on addictive. Who can resist those juicy black berries. One for me and one for the bucket! Risking brambles and nettles to reach the prize.
This year I wanted to try Rowan jelly and elderberry syrup as well as the annual blackberry jam making. The Elderberries are picked and frozen for now as apparently they produce more juice having been frozen first. I also need to pick out any stray twigs as I have read that all parts of the elder tree are poisonous. The berries are fine once cooked, but the stems, leaves and bark are not for eating. I will make them up into small bottles as needed over the winter to boost immune systems and fight winter colds. I will add cinnamon, ginger, turmeric and black pepper to them for their added benefits.
Once the Rowan berries were picked, I removed them from the stems by gently rubbing them between my palms. Some people use a fork. A good wash and strain, then into a stainless steel pot with some water and chopped whole apples. They were then cooked, mashed to release maximum juice and poured into my prepared jelly bag.
This year I grew sunflowers at the front of my house and they reached almost 11 foot in height. When it came to removing the heads to dry the seeds, I wondered about the stalks. A bit of research and I found all sorts of uses for all parts of the sunflower, stalks included. So some of them became the tripod for supporting my jelly bag, the rest went to support other plants in the garden. I am intrigued at the idea of stripping out the fibres to make into rope or textiles similar to the way nettles are done.
I left the berries straining overnight and in the morning, measured the resulting liquid. This was then heated along with the required amount of sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice, brought to a simmering boil and cooked till the set point was reached. Potted and left to cool, I was very please with the clarity and colour. I had read that one shouldn’t squeeze any juice from the jelly bag as it may cloud the jelly, so I resisted the urge. The flavour is somewhat unusual, hard to describe as it isn’t like any other fruit I have tasted. The apples I used were from a friends farm, windfalls, and were likely a bit too tart. It works well with a strong cheese or game, like venison or perhaps pheasant.
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