Written by Phil Brown, Badger Bushcraft Blog Thursday, 29 September 2011 14:46
The hedgerows of Kent are laden with fruit this year and here at Badger Bushcraft we are making the best of the bounty given to us by Mother Nature. In this Wild Food Blog we will be making whitebeam (Sorbus aria) jelly with the fruits picked locally and the apples from the orchard on our farm site in Egerton.
With so many of the wild fruit trees hanging low and pendulous with a glut of fruit, be they bullace, sloe, plum or hawthorn, this year is certainly a time to experiment with recipes and try new cooking ideas and techniques.
For this Whitebeam jelly recipe we used:-
- 1kg Whitebeam Berries
- 1.5kg Cooking Apples
- 3.5ltrs Water
- 1.2kg Sugar
- A Large Maslin or Jam Pan
- Jelly Bag Or Muslin
Ben and I collected the whitebeam "pome-type fruits" from a tree in the village that we have never seen so covered in the orange-red berries. Within no time we had collected 1kg of fruit from just one tree.
Once back to Badger HQ we washed and sorted through our whitebeam berries to ensure there were no rouge berries or any that looked suspect and also to remove any remaining stalks. Please note, when identifying all plants for food "If in doubt leave it out" – never take chances with wild foods!
With all the storks removed and the fruits sorted we placed them in a Pyrex bowl and froze them in the deep freezer for 48 hours to replicate a harsh frost which can soften and sweeten wild berries as anyone that has picked an attempted to eat the flesh of an unripe sloe will testify to! Also during recent research I have found that whitebeam fruit, as with rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), contain parasorbic acid which some sources state can cause health issues including kidney damage but that the parasorbic acid is turned into benign sorbic acid through the heat treatment of cooking.
We placed the whitebeam berries into 2.5 litres of cold water in our Maslin or jam pan and then simmered for 10 minutes to soften before adding 1.5kg of peeled and coarsely chopped cooking apples.
We then simmered and stirred the mixture until all the apple softened and then used a potato masher to pulverise the concoction. At this stage we then simmered over a low heat and stirred for 35 minutes.
Previous experience has shown that filtering the pulp and liquid of various fruits directly into a jelly bag or muslin cloth take many hour for the liquid to run through. With this in mind we decided to first filter through a sieve to remove all the large pieces of the fruit before pouring the remaining rose coloured fluid into the jelly bag and allowing it to drain into a large saucepan which only took some 30 minutes. This allowed time to wash up the Maslin or jam pan which is needed again in the last stage of our jelly making.
The pulp was then added to another 1ltr of boiling water and the process then repeated to extract as much from the fruit as possible. This method allowed us to produce 1.5ltrs of liquid which we returned to the clean Maslin and gently reheated until it was simmering before adding 1.2kg of sugar (800g of sugar per litre of filtered liquid).
The mix was then boiled for 30 minutes, testing a drip onto a chilled plated from the fridge every once in a while to see if it would set. As the mixture appeared to be clear enough for our liking we did not feel it was necessary to skim as you would normally.
Once it had reached setting point the whitebeam jelly was allowed to cool for some 10 minutes before carefully decanting into heat sterilised jars. From this recipe we managed to produce six 8oz jars of delicious jelly.
So how did it taste, that's a hard answer at this stage, the jelly is certainly exceptionally nice but during the whole making process I was tasting the fruit, pulp, liquid and jelly throughout so my palate got used to the initial sharp astringent taste. When the jars are cooled and my palate has cleared and I can gather some friends for a taste test we will revisit this Badger Bushcraft Wild Food Blog with some tasting notes.
Fortunately the Maslin pan and utensils were covered in enough of the whitebeam jelly to cover a cinnamon raisin bagel which I enjoyed in the garden with a mug of coffee. Delicious! As for the washing up everything is in the sink soaking and I am off out to walk Inca across the fields and enjoy some of the fantastic weather we are so blessed with at the moment here in Kent.