#3 even more free food

crab apples, haws & elderberries

crab apples, haws & elderberries

My polite gift of Damson jam has gained me access to the various other untapped seasonal fruit resources on the farm.  Today, I have gained a basket full of crab apples. Some of the apples will go into the freezer to be added to my recent stash of Brambles so that I can make my favourite fruit pudding; Bramble and Apple Crumble. I will set aside what I need for an apple and elderberry crumble (to be made as pudding for the farmer who is coming to dinner while the farmer’s wife is surfing in Cornwall!). The damson and Elderberry Pie will have to wait for another day (freezer permitting).

crab apples

crab apples

damsons & haws

damsons & haws

The rest is going into my Hedgerow Jelly.

In order to continue all this foraging, I have fashioned myself a gathering basket of sorts that seems to hold about 5kgs of whatever it is that I am collecting. It’s very basic; it is a large flower basket with a carrier bag fastened to the straps to form a waterproof (ish) lining.

So far it has collected the potatoes, about 8kg of damsons, haw berries, crab apples and elderberries. What next eh?

As my ‘food for Free’ entry a few days ago, the time of year means lots of good things in the hedgerows. So, yesterday, we used the crab apples offered by the farm (wish I’d made it a bigger jar of Damson Jam for them now!), haw berries and elderberries to make hedgerow jelly. This little recipe was found on the downsizer.net forum which had been posted on there by Anne Young who had found it in the Bob Flowerdew’s Complete Fruit Book. What’s especially nice is that it emphasises foraging for the ingredients.

You need:

1 quantity elderberries

2 quantities crab apples

4 quantities haws (the berries of the hawthorn)

a dash of lemon juice

(I gathered about 600g haws, so we based our recipe on that amount.)

Wash the fruit, removing elderberries from their twigs with a fork (I like to do it with my fingers and this works ok if they are truly ripe), removing twigs from haws and chopping crab apples.

Place all ingredients in a pan and cover (just) with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until soft. (I left them simmering for a couple of hours).

Strain off the juice. (“Proper” cookbooks will tell you not to squeeze the fruit but that’s for the purists. It gets you the clearest jelly but loses more of the fruit)

Once the juice has strained, weight it and add the same amount of sugar (we had 650g juice so added 650g sugar) and the dash of lemon.

Bring it back to the boil and boil until it sets (the chef of this recipe, Anne, liked a temperature of about 104 degrees C, which she believes gives a nice soft jelly – I don’t have the equipment to tell you what the temperature was but my jelly turned out firm using electrical halogen hob top set at the highest temperature) which took about 20 minutes, then pour into clean, sterile jars. I got over 3 jars of jelly from this quantity – a small but worthwhile amount, and really quite easy to make!  There is a bit of fuss at the beginning, especially de-stalking and cleaning the haws and elderberries but you are rewarded.

While it is cooking it smells divine! All the colour leaves the haws and the apples take the colour of the elderberries very quickly. The juice is a very deep red very quickly.  I had it on toast and it is delicious.

The Crab Apples apparently make delicious apple sauce so I have been searching may new favourite web site (allotment.org.uk) to see what gems lie there waiting for me to discover. Apple Jelly may well follow if I can harvest some more crab apples.


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