We are always told that the best things in life are free, we are also informed that things mean more when we have to make an effort for them. This jelly really is a case in point. It firmly ticks both of these boxes with a thick felt pen. The berries, haws, hips, brambles and rowans were all free. They were all found in the hedgerows up here on Walton’s Mountain. I used to run past these bushes, trees and hedges every day. Used to watch those berries changing colour like a hawk and carry a little baggy to collect them when they turned the perfect shade of ripeness. I did this for years, sometimes I ate lots of brambles and ran home with sticky stained hands and nothing to show the cooking pot. I took all this for granted. They were just there. This year has been different, I can no longer run and to walk round our wee mountain would be too painful for my patheticly stupid foot. I miss being part of the changing seasons on my run. I miss so much about it really. Instead I drag out the bike and cycle round, not enjoying it at all but doing it for the exercise. Still it means I can carry a bigger baggy on the handle bars and tote home more fruity loot. For hedgerow jelly you can use any of the edible berries and fruits that grace the trees and bushes at this time of year. Button bright haws that are prickly and hard to gather, brambles (blackberries) so juicy and sweet that never seem to make it home, rosehips, sloes, rowan berries and plums. Add in some apples and raspberries if you happen to have any hanging about the freezer. This jelly is an orchestration of flavours, anything goes!
Here’s how to make Hedgerow Jelly With a Dash Of Scotch!;
Wash all your fruits and chop up plums and apples. There is no need to peel or stone the fruit as it will all be sieved anyway. I used 1 kilo of mixed berries and added 350g of apples. There are only three other ingredients for this jelly; 100ml of whisky (come on this is me and it is Scotland), water and sugar. Tip your chopped and washed fruit into a large bowl and pour over the booze. Get your hands in there and really stir it about to make sure all the fruuit gets a change to soak up the old amber nectar! Cover with a tea towel and leave over night. Next morning scoop out the fruit and put into your preserving pan. Reserve the booze at the bottom of the bowl. Cover the fruit with water and bring it to the boil. Pop on the lid and lower the temperature so that the fruit will just simmer for about 40 minutes until tender. Pour it all into a jelly bag (or muslin bag/old pair of (clean!!) tights/old cheesecloth shirt that has seen better days etc) and let it drip quietly overnight into another bowl. Next day you want to measure the juice you have gathered in the bowl and resist all temptation to squeeze out the bag to get more. This would be a total disaster as you’d end up with cloudy jelly and we want jewel like clarity don’t we! Measure the juice, and for every 600ml (1 pint) add 350g (12oz) of granulated sugar. Pour this into your preserving pan and gently heat to dissolve the sugar before bringing it to the boil. Boil for approximately 10 minutes until you have reached the setting point (test with chilled saucer from the freezer and dropping a spoonful on it and popping it back in the fridge for 5 minutes. If it forms a skin and wrinkles when you touch it then it is ready to pot. Stir in the reserved whisky – now you did keep it didn’t you, oh no you drank it, naughty old you go and get some more then, you only want a couple of tablespoons anyway! Spoon jelly into sterilised jars and cover with lids. This will make 4 jars. For me it made no jars at all on the first batch as I let it boil too long and when I did get it into the jars it set like rock. This necessitated starting all over again. An exercise both in patience and cycling. Was it worth it? Yes definately.
Hedgerow Jelly is one of those jellies that works just as well both with savoury and sweet dishes. It has a deep, rich and indulgant sort of flavour. I especially love it on top of a turkey and brie sandwich with a few salad leaves and maybe a glass of red on the side. So if you have access to the hedgerows go make yourself some of this wonderful jelly, it is a real jewel of Autumn.
- 1 kilo/2¼lb mixed berries and plums
- 350g/12 oz apples
- 100ml/3½ fl oz whisky
- Rinse fruit and chop roughly.
- Put fruit into large bowl and pour in the whisky, mix well, cover and set aside over night.
- Drain fruit and reserve the remaining whisky.
- Put fruit in preserving pan and cover with water.
- Bring to boil, then cover and simmer approximately 30 minutes or until tender.
- Strain through jelly bag over night into another bowl.
- Measure juice and for every 600ml/1 pint add 350g/12oz sugar.
- Heat gently to dissolve sugar and boil approximately 10 minutes until reaching setting point.
- Stir in reserved whisky.
- Pour into sterilised jars and pop on the lids.