Friday, September 08, 2006


Well, the sun is creeping lower in the sky, and certainly where we are, the ravages of autumn are getting into full swing. While we absorb these last blasts of heat in the Indian summer we know that the frosts are coming, and laying down some goodies is the next perogative, while enjoying the summer's last fruits as well.

This week we've been out in the hedgerows collecting bullaces and brambles. It's jelly season.

Here's a basic rulebook for your berries...

1. Make sure you know what you're picking. The two above are fairly straightforward. Bullace is a wild plum. Amazingly this year, in our area they're almost edible off the tree, but they can be rather tart and astringent. Blackberries are hopefully familiar to even the most ardent urbanite.

2. Wash. For brambles it's worth soaking in a salt solution to lure out the maggots and various other minibeasts eager to eat your spoils. Leave them for a while and rinse well.

3. A good rough guide recipe is to briefly stew your fruit until the juices are really flowing, mash it well, and then pass it through a couple of layers of muslin overnight (or a jelly bag if you're feeling flush). Don't squeeze the bag! Measure the resultant volume of juice, and add an equal volume of sugar. Boil, starting slowly, to 108C. Jar. Enjoy.

4. For low pectin fruits, then the addition of apple in moderate quantities makes for good setting qualities. I usually add about a 5th to bramble jellies. When picking brambles, picking about a quarter slightly underripe, will also boost the pectin levels. The final way to get pectin is to buy it in, either in pectin-added sugar, or as pure pectin.

Our hoarding now lasts us until this time next year. How sensible.

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