Time is filled just like the jam jars

Last week I wrote about my foraging wishlist. This time of year is so exciting for those of us who know what the hedgerows are bursting with. Knowing what to look for, what the different fruits are, and what potential there is in them, that’s foraging! Here’s how I ticked off my wishlist at the weekend and found wonderful edible treats in the Yorkshire countryside.

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The photo above is of my berry-stained hands after a stooped over forage among tiny bramble thorns. The black berry appears to be a blackberry at first look, but after further consideration and remembering back to my flicking through of Richard Mabey’s Food For Free, I think it’s a Dewberry. So that’s the ‘even more than we bargained for’ that I eluded to in last weekend’s post. It may just seem like another berry find but there was something satisfying about connecting what I had read in my foraging book with what I saw in the hedge! I picked them into an old ice cream tub (of course) and froze them when we get home.

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For this next find, I am thankful to those who didn’t pick all the elderflower blossom in May, it left the elders bursting with berries, drooping low on their stalks. That’s a good way to tell they’re really ripe for the picking. If you’re making jam though, it doesn’t matter if some of the berries on the bunch are a little underripe, more red and less black than the others. Underripe fruit contains more pectin in general, the setting agent for jams.

It was painfully difficult to find a good supply of balckberries this year. Where I’m from, Essex, I can tell you about a dozen places to find buckets full of blackberries, year after year. Here in East Riding though, it’s been a little trickier finding the spots. A call for help on Twitter was fruitful only in highlighting brambles in York (pun intended).

Anyway, we went for a walk on a footpath along a field edge and low and behold found more black berries, sloes this time! They were big, fat sloes. What a find! I got excited thinking they might be damsons or perhaps bullace, seeing them from a distance. They were sloes though, juicy fat ones! They have gone in the freezer too, too good to leave! Right round the corner I found the blackberries we needed to make the jam. Good walk!

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We made elderberry and blackberry jam, the label on the jar in the fridge tells me it was 2010 the last time I made that jam. The jar must have been hidden at the back of one of my cupboards for a while otherwise it certainly would have all gone by now! It’s as simple as this:

RECIPE
Elderberry and Blackberry Jam
Fills around 5 1lb jars, to be sterilised before jam making
Equal amounts of blackberries and elderberries (removed from stalks, a fork is useful), washed. We used 600g of each.
75g granulated sugar per 100g fruit, so 900g for this recipe.
1. Wash fruit
2. Boil fruit in the pan on the hob then simmer for 20 mins
3. Add sugar and bring back up to boil, simmer for another 20 mins at least, until setting point. You need to keep an eye on it now. To check setting point put a blob on a plate, move to fridge for 2 mins, take out and poke to check if it’s set. You will know!
4. Add jam to jars and seal with a round of greaseproof paper sitting neatly in the lid. Leave to cool with lids on, wipe round the outside, before storing in cupboard.

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That’s 3 ticked off the list and a surprise discovery, are you keeping up? Unfortunately, there was no discovery of wild damsons. I’m going to have to keep looking. However, I’ve had a look on the Edible York map and hopefully I’ll have a good forage of wild plums by the end of the week. I’m excited for plum jam and preserving some in jars.

Apples. Now there’s a definite subject of future blog posts on Everday Good Living! I have wholeheartedly enjoyed reading Common Ground’s The Apple Source Book, which tells all about the joys of keeping apples a part of our communities, there is a handy Gazzetteer of regional varieties too! On this forage we came across two new eating apple trees and spotted dozens of crab apples. We passed on the crab apples for the most part, apart from a heaped handful from that fieldside footpath, thinking they may be a pectin-rich, welcome addition to a bramble jelly with bits and pieces, they will keep alright for a little while.

The two eating apple trees we found were very different to one another. One was between the elder actually, I just spotted a fat, green fruit and looked up at the leaves, ‘Oh, an apple!’ There were just two fruit and no sign of windfalls, slightly odd. I guess the blossom didn’t set or it was an early and the fruit has all fallen in the ditch out of sight, or it’s an immature tree? The second tree was a grand, big bushy one at the end of a long, straight country road. A delight. I picked one of the apples, not so easily. A risky crunchy bite told me straight away that they aren’t ripe. My face screwed up like I had bit into a lemon, then uncurled as a rush of sweetness came through. They could be good late cookers or perhaps a bitter eater. These are in great contrast to the russet I also found last week.

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My aim this autumn is to fill a drawer in the freezer with fruit before filling a cupboard with jars and bottles. I’ll try and keep you posted, between the preserving, and harvesting, and my full time job.

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