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Posts Tagged ‘foraging’

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There really is no such thing. Even when a friend has kindly given me 3kg of apples, and I have all the jars, vinegar, sugar and raisins to make chutney right here in my cupboards, the actual process of preserving always takes so much longer than I think it will. Even with the aid of my apple master, an ingenious contraption that peels, cores and slices even the tiniest of apples with a few twirls of the handle, I got a bit fed up after 2kg and endless jars of chutney.

So I used some of the remaining apples with rosehips to make a jelly, which meant only rough chopping and no peeling or coring.

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Even this took longer than expected, with the picking of the hips, boiling, overnight straining and then boiling again with sugar. As much of a faff as this all is, the resulting jars of chutney, jams and jellies is more than worth it. Just- not quick.

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raspberries, shawl 001

Last year was our first summer here and I was astonished at the sudden appearance of wild raspberry canes, popping out from brown, dead, snow-crushed nowhere in springtime. We watched as they flowered briefly and then started noticing the red berries as we drove past, resolving to return on foot with a basket or two. I made many sojourns out with Otis on my back and Sol on his balance bike, freezing the handful here and there that we picked. I made jelly with the resulting kilo and a bit, which converted into three precious jars. Last week, my visiting mum and I went out and in one session, picked the same weight as I managed for the whole of last year!

raspberries, shawl 004

I boiled up the berries immediately this time, strained them overnight in a muslin bag (‘like a bloodied pendulum,’ according to my mother)  and made the jelly the next morning. I used jam sugar, but not the one with added pectin, as that resulted in a very firm set previously. I haven’t cracked open a jar, but my mum took one back to my grandmother to enjoy on some of her scones, and am reliably informed of a good set and tasty jelly!

The thing about seasons, and seasonal living, is that you quickly become a creature of habit. Winter brings soups, gathering in logs as quickly as possible for the fire, and the smell of an unhappy clutch as I struggle to emerge from a snowy parking spot; then comes the time for a handful of wild garlic in an omelette; daffodils pop up; the trees start their soft, pure green growth that makes them look fresh and new; elders start blooming and I resolve to make elderflower champagne (scared of the explosions, next year, I promise); and the raspberries, in the same wind and snow-ravaged spot, grow completely unaided by human hand. As Sol and I picked by the roadside, a woman in her seventies pulled up her car and told us of how she had picked these same raspberry bushes with her children. It was a lovely moment: cyclical, seasonal, round and round.

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This was the subject of one of my very first posts two years ago! And that time has rolled round again, when the countryside comes to life with berries, mushrooms and all manner of wild goodies. As we’ve moved away from all those unwanted apple trees at Home Farm, and been so negligent on the veg patch this year -indeed it hasn’t been a good growing year- I’m turning to the hedgerow for my preserving fix. This jaunt, by the way, took place last week, before the crazy wind and rain set in!

Raspberry jelly shelved and my eye on the ripening brambles, I drive past two wild roses every day which have dozens of bright little red hips on them, flashing me like stop lights. I was again reminded the other night by an episode of Wartime Farm (This is an excellent BBC programme in which a historian and two archaeologists live and work in a time period. Part history lesson, part adventure, their enthusiasm is infectious and their knowledge impressive. Plus, I like the clothes. Especially Ruth’s shoes which I have deduced are  these ones.)

So the boys and I ambled down (it’s almost always down when you live atop a hill, and ambling back up is often the tough bit), basket in hand, and I picked as many rosehips as a grumbling Otis would allow.

He really only likes the sling if he’s kept moving. If he’s stationary he wants to get out and shuffle about the roadside. Which is not great: the ditches are like blooming ice crevasses. But we picked 500g of teeny wee fruits and a bit of magimix chopping, boiling, straining and syrup-ing later, I have three and a half bottles, plus two from an earlier harvest. The second lot is much darker, I think due to the riper hips and a stick of cinnamon. Yum. Plus it has required no digging, manuring, weeding, guilty negligence or faffing around. Nature did it all!

I love it on porridge, and Sol used to, but now declares it “too strong, mummy.” (More for mummy then.)

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