So, you’ve made your hawthorn syrup, your rose hip syrup and blackberry jam, but what can you do now with all those lovely berries that are still on the hedgerows? Easy, you can round up all the ones that are perhaps past their best, or the ones that you don’t have enough of to use on their own, and make a hedgerow jelly. That’s basically a jam which you have sieved, so you don’t have more seeds than you do jam.
Before you say no, jam is not good for you, wait a while and think about why jam was made in the first place. Yes jam is full of sugar, but real sugar ( in small quantities) is something that your body can at least process, not like horrendous artificial sweeteners that are out there nowadays, which leave you, at best, over indulging , labouring under the impression that it is not bad for you, and really don’t get me started on the at worst scenarios. You can google it. Homemade jam is about making the best of what is available to you, where you live, and preserving it so that you may be able to keep on enjoying its benefits long after the natural season has passed. Put this on your toast in the morning, instead of lashings of butter and you’ll feel good all winter long. This particular jelly also makes a lovely sauce for game. Once you have cooked your game, keep the meat juices in the pan and add about a glass of nice red wine and some chopped fresh thyme leaves. Reduce that down by about a half then add a good teaspoon of this jelly, and once it has dissolved you’ll have a lovely jus to pour over your game pie or whatever.
I love the hedgerow jelly recipe because it is not prescriptive. You simply go for a walk, gather whatever (edible! Please be careful- always check the leaves of the plant if you are in any way unsure) berries you can find. This year, the hawthorn has been really good round me, so mine has a lot of hawthorn in, but last year there wasn’t so much. I also use rose hips, wild plums, blackberries, elderberries and sloes. Sloes aren’t great yet, their best time will come later, but then we’ll be wanting them to make juice with, or sloe gin, but grab a few now to go in if you can.
Basically, you wash your fruit and weigh it. Whatever weight of fruit you have, you take an equal quantity of cooking apples. Windfalls are fine.
Chop your apples roughly, but don’t core or peel them. The pectin is in their peel, and they are in there to act as your setting agent.
Put berries and apples into a pan and cover with a small amount of water.
Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat. Leave the pan to simmer until you have a mushy juice, probably around 15 minutes, depending on your fruit mix. I do mash mine a few times with a potato masher, but I would think that was optional, if you fancied a less labour intensive method.
Strain the resulting mush through a muslin or jelly bag, and as with the rose hip syrup, if you don’t want it to be cloudy, don’t squeeze the bag.
Return the strained juice to a clean pan, and then return to the boil with 450g sugar per 500ml of juice you have.
Boil rapidly until it reaches the setting point, around 10 minutes. Then pour straight into sterilised jars and seal tightly.
It will be ready for use as soon as it has cooled!