Hedgerow Jelly

Posted 9 November 2010 by

Apparently, we are having a particularly bountiful autumn.  I guess we’re coming to the end of it now, and the berries left in the hedgerows are looking a bit sorry for themselves. Back in September, however, it was a different story. The hedgerows were weighed down with ripening  blackberries, rosehips, elderberries and haws. Our crab apple tree was looking beautiful, full of yellowy-pinky-red fruits. I couldn’t bear the thought of them all being kicked under the hedge or squished under car when they fell, so I decided to get jelly-making. Hedgerow jelly-making, to be precise.

Sun shining though jar of ruby-red hedgerow jelly.

Ruby-red hedgerow jelly

This is my first solo attempt at anything jelly or jam (I used to help with raspberry jam making as a child). So, where to start? Luckily I already had a lovely preserves book, one of the River Cottage series: Preserves: River Cottage Handbook No. 2 by Pam Corbin. It’s a brilliant book, and even has a forward by the lovely Hugh F-W.

The book suggests using any combo of hedgerow bounty (about half crab apples, half other fruit), so I tailored my recipe to exactly what I could forage. After braving the elements, I ended up with blackberries, haws and sloes. Here’s the recipe:

  • 1 kg crab apples
  • 400 g blackberries
  • 320 g  haws
  • 280 g sloes
  • Approx. 1.2 kg sugar (depending on how much juice you end up with on day 2)

Removed the apple stems and chop the apples in half, discarding any really nasty bits, but you don’t need to be too picky. Then put all the fruit in a large preserving pan and add about a litre of water (enough so the fruit is not quite covered). Simmer them until the fruit is all soft (this took about an hour).

Pan full of crab apples, blackberries, haws and sloes to make hedgerow jelly.

Crab apples, blackberries, sloes and haws, ready to go

The berries are just starting to simmer

The berries are nice and soft and ready for the next stage!

When the fruit is nice and soft (you can check the apples by mashing them against the side of the pan), it is time to strain it. Some people do this using muslin or pillow cases, set up over a stool. I am lucky enough to have the use of a jelly strainer. These are not too expensive, and the jelly bags are relatively cheap. I had to peg it to the frame as the fruit was really heavy.

Straining the juice through a jelly bag

Leave the juice to strain (covered up against pesky fruit flies) overnight. You could easily do this in a day, straining it for several hours, but overnight is quite handy. Once the juice has all been strained, the remaining pulp looks like this:

The pulp remaining in the jelly bag

There’s probably something exciting you can do with the leftover pulp, but for now, mine went in the wormery. Lucky worms! Measure out the lovely juice, which should have a slightly syrupy consistency. I ended up with about 1.5 litres of juice. You should add 450 g of sugar per 600 ml of juice.

Lovely, syrupy hedgerow juice

Add the juice  to the pan and bring it to the boil. Add your sugar and stir it until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring it to a rolling boil.

The juice and added sugar reach a rolling boil

Just used ordinary sugar, with no added pectin. The crab apples have a good amount of pectin in them, so you don’t need to add any more. To test that the jelly has reached its setting point, drop a bit onto a saucer that has been in the fridge to get nice and cool. If you push the jelly along the saucer, and it wrinkles a bit, it’s ready. (The “wrinkle” test.) Mine took about 10 minutes, but it can (apparently) vary quite a bit depending on the fruit you use.

You can sterilise your jars by boiling them in water and then drying them off in a low oven. Transferring the finished hedgerow jelly to the jars can be… messy! You can skim off any “scum”, but this isn’t always practical. This time, I had a lot of scum, and I would have wasted half of my yield if I’d skimmed it all off. I don’t think it looks too bad in the jars though. It’s hard to tell because the jelly’s so dark, but it ended up being very clear.

Finished jar of hedgerow jelly

I ended up with three largish jars full of hedgerow jelly, which should keep for 12 months. And… it is delicious! Very, very fruity. I’ve had it on toast, and also with meat. It works very well with pâté.

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