Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hedgerow Jelly

I'm not sure whether there is an official recipe for Hedgerow Jelly. In my opinion, the essential criterion is that it must contain ingredients foraged from the hedgerows. I associate it with early Autumn, when the hedgerows round us are teeming with free fruit. Here in Hampshire, the weather this past Friday afternoon was glorious - blue sky, sunshine, temperature about 18C - ideal conditions for foraging! Within the space of an hour I had gathered this:

Well actually not ALL of that. The apples are Bramleys from a domestic garden, which were given to me by a friend. (Thanks, Rosemary!)

These are the fruits, in close-up. First, Blackberries:

Then Sloes:

Then Elderberries:

And not forgetting the Apples...

I had a total of about 1.75kg of Blackberries, Elderberries and Sloes, and I matched that with an equal quantity of Apples. After washing, the fruit all went into our big preserving-pan, along with a litre of water. It's important to put all parts of the apples in, including the skin, cores and pips, because these contribute high levels of pectin (which Blackberries lack). It is the pectin that makes the jelly set.

Then the fruit was simmered gently for about half an hour until very soft.

Next the fruit has to be strained to separate the juice from the pulp. Fortunately we have a purpose-made jelly-bag, but if you haven't got one of these you could use a piece of muslin. Now the difficult bit - finding a means of suspending the jelly-bag above a bowl in which to collect the juice. I excercised my ingenuity and tied some pieces of string to the loops on the jelly-bag and then hung the whole thing from the handles of the overhead cupboards in our Utility-Room, like this:

"Necessity is the Mother of Invention" they say...

After straining the fruit overnight, this is the juice I had collected. It was 1.25 litres.

The next stage of the proceedings was to return the juice to the (washed) pan and add sugar. You need 450g of sugar to 500ml of juice (or a pound of sugar to a pint of juice). Heat the pan gently, stirring constantly, to dissolve the sugar crystals.

Then bring the mixture to the boil and boil it hard for as long as it takes to reach "setting point". This depends on the fruit, but could be anything between 5 and 45 minutes! Definitely an area where judgement is required... If you need advice on this, I suggest consulting Mr.Google. More conveniently, I had Jane to guide me!

It is very important to have a BIG pan (such as a purpose-made preserving-pan) if you are intending to make jam or jelly, because when the sugar comes to the boil the mixture expands about 100% (imagine what happens when your pan of milk boils over. See what I mean? With sugar it would be a lot worse!).

While the mixture is cooking, heat some jars in the oven so that you are not putting boiling-hot jelly into cold jars (which could cause them to crack). Heating the jars also sterilises them. Then, when the jelly has reached setting-point, let it cool slightly (only slightly; you don't want it to set just yet), and then pour it into the jars:

The final stage is to cover the tops with waxed-paper discs (you could use greaseproof paper, I suppose) and leave the jelly to cool. The waxed-paper discs help to prevent the jelly going mouldy during storage.

So there we are then. I now have five jars of beautiful dark, extremely tasty jelly. I'm tempted to describe it as "unctuous"!

Jelly like this is lovely to eat on toast, but is also a nice accompaniment to roast meat, especially game. I think I might just pop down to the butchers' and see if they have any pheasants...

Afterthought: poor old Jane will not be able to enjoy this jelly with me. Products that are 50% sugar are not good for diabetics! :-(  She took her revenge today, by eating Tuna-fish for lunch. Yuck!


  1. What a great haul from the hedgerows, and the jelly looks delicious.

  2. Mark, if you took your juice liquid and put Chia seeds in it Jane could have jelly without the sugar. It lasts only about three days in the fridge as it is raw and fresh but better than nothing!

  3. What do sloes actually taste like? Are they really sour?

    1. Sue, sloes are like an incredibly sour version of the plum. They are so "dry" that you would definitely not be able to eat them on their own, but as an ingredient in jellies which include copious quantities of sugar they are great. And of course the essential ingredient of Sloe Gin!

  4. All the berries look so delicious! Same goes for the jelly. Wow!!

  5. That is a beautiful jelly. I haven't made a real jelly in years and years.

  6. I see none of the "canning police" have come on here to tell you how bad it is to not water bath can your jelly (they seem to flock to me if I do something like this). My mother did not can her jelly either, she covered it with a wax to seal it. Anyway, this looks like a wonderful jelly and I wish we had some hedgegrows here. Phil will not let me wander the woods right now where they are cutting the trees as we have seen another hog (this one definitely feral), snakes(copperhead) and possums. Not to mention that we have not eaten the last jelly I made-apple. We are trying to cut back and no one wants it :(

    1. Yes, I see your point about the dangers of wandering around in the woods. Funnily enough I saw a snake when I was out gathering the Blackberries. This is very rare in the UK. At least it was only a harmless Grass Snake!

    2. May I ask why you don't process your jelly in a canner/hot water bath? The color is stunning though! I've never heard of a sloe, which automatically makes me love it.


    3. I'm sorry, but I don't see the relevance of this. Why would I want to process jelly in a hot water bath? The preservation of fruit using sugar is a well-accepted method which has stood the test of time. "Canning" is something completely different to jam-making.

    4. In the US we are told to follow the USDA guideline which means water bath can our jellies and jams. They say not to use wax. US guidelines are way stricter than what the rest of the world does or what people in the US do when they learn from their grandma. Of course we also make low sugar jams which you have to water bath can if you want them to be safe.

  7. This Jelly looks delicious. Quite the process of making it too, great pictures! This post would be great linked into my new series: Grow it! Cook it! Eat it! Live it! I would be honoured if you would link in:

  8. The color is beautiful and, I am sure, so is the taste of this jelly.

  9. Very productive, and the results look delicious. A taste of autumn glory for the winter.

  10. Your big can just looks like my Brenda's, she loves to prepare lots of preserved produce. Last year we got some wonderful crab apples from the hedgerow. There is evidence that in our area of east Yorkshire farm workers grafted worthwhile varieties on wild apple in the hedgerow.
    Put Northern pomona into my blog search box to find out more.

  11. I so agree with you about water baths, absolutely pointless. The sugar is the preservative in jam, as for other types if the jars are sterilized & the substance boiled where is the problem. I've never had any problems & often keep for a whole year.
    As for Jane, have you tried making the jam?jelly with Stevia instead? not only can she then eat it but it will be much healthier for the both of you. I don't think it will last as long though so just keep your eye on it.


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