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.

4 comments:

Potia said...

Sounds yummy. I'd have a hard time managing to save blackberries for jam making though as I love eating fresh picked blackberries. It is one of the highlights of my year.

Lee said...

well im off to a pick-your-own farm on wednesday and some more blackberry picking. i already have heaps of ideas though i think the raspberries might not make it home in one piece. i tend to be a fiend for fresh ones.

Heron said...

We have some very productive gooseberry bushes in our garden (fed on bonfire ash) and make good use of those every year, though this is not really a wild harvest. But over the garden fence and 5 mins along the public footpath brings us to a thick hedge which is very good for sloes with which we make sloe gin (and have also experimented with elderberry gin) for winter comfort. And we keep some of a previous year's in the bottom of the bottle to offer back to the hedge. Must be time to start thinking about getting in some gin ....

arth frown said...

Glad you're having a good time wild foraging. We have plenty of blackberries in our woods and now that I done away with the local squirrels we have loads of hazelnuts. Elderberries make a lovely wine and so do blackberries.