Sunday, 16 August 2009
A Berry Good Time
Yesterday I went up to north London to spend the day with J and M and to do a little berry preserving. Picking and preserving wild and FREE food is one of those things I keep building up towards getting involved in and for some reason or another I end up missing the best opportunities and so getting annoyed at myself. However, this year has gotten off to a good start and I am going to keep up with it for once.
So to begin, I had picked some elderberries from the local park and brought them with me, we also wandered down to their local park to get some more – which we did – and we also came across a bunch of blackberries and a blackthorn groaning under the weight of sloes. We stocked up on those too.
The first thing we got on with was some Elder Rob; simmer the elderberries with enough water to cover them, once they turn to mush you strain them and return the juice to the heat with sugar (roughly 450g of sugar to 500ml of juice) and some cloves. It rapidly turns into a rich bull's blood of a liquid, and once the sugar has completely dissolved you allow it to cool. Once cool it has become elderberry cordial and can be left as it is, however to make it bit more grown up you pour in dark rum – we put in 350mlto about 900ml of the cordial – to give it extra kick, extra taste and to help preserve it. This is then bottled and kept. It is best taken with 2-3tsp in a little warm water. Not only is it very nice indeed but is good for coughs, sore throats etc as it is packed with vitamin C and soothes the throat too. The rum probably helps kill of germs too, or at least that is my theory and as far as I am concerned is good enough reason to have it.
Next was a jelly. This time with the blackberries and some of the elderberries too, simmer in a pan with only a little water till the fruit is much and the juice has been released, again strain and return to the heat but this jam with jam making sugar (for the added pectin) in the same sort of quantity for the cordial, bring to a rolling boil for about 10 mins, pour into sterilised jars and you are done. We only had enough for 2 jars of this so I need to get back out bramble hunting soon enough. I also aim to get to a pick your own farm some time over the next week or so to stock up on raspberries (for raspberry jam, gin and vodka) and plums (jam, chutney and brandy). The sloes are in the freezer for now but will soon be mixed with cheap gin and vodka and left till the spring before being bottled for drinking – or storage as it matures with age. There is so much more that can be done with these free or cheap fruits I cant imagine why people don't do more with them, I recall going bramble picking all the time when I was a kid and my mum making tarts with them
To bring this back to a spirituality angle, I was talking not so long ago about how Lammas and the grain harvest is largely irrelevant to me, I am beginning to think that this time of year could become the focus or a more personal harvest time – namely that of the fruits. I shall have to consider this some more I think and see how it fits in.