Monday, 19 March 2012

Preserving Foraged Fruits

It might seem like a funny time of the year to be writing about this.  Autumn and winter would be slightly more appropriate but I'm moving house in a few weeks and have been sorting out my freezer trying to use up those frozen foods before the big move to Birmingham.

Out of the various things stuffed into our really tiny freezer compartment I found a few gems I'd collected last summer and autumn... a bag of 250g blackberries, 500g hawthorn berries and 500g elderberries.  Laziness was the only excuse for not doing something with them in the autumn.  Maybe it was the distraction of my boyfriend returning from a tour of duty but these are only excuses at the end of the day.  At the time I had just learned to make chutney and my very own tomato ketchup which has to be one of the most delicious things I've ever made.

I had plans for these bags of fruit, the haw berries were destined to be made into haw berry ketchup and the elderberries' destiny was a pontack sauce.  Both these recipes were in my Preserves Handbook (River Cottage) which is currently my preserving bible.

So yesterday I spent the day in my kitchen with these bubbling concoctions made from last autumn's foraged foods.

There's something so special about cooking foraged foods.  They are like gifts from nature.  The majority of people walk past them, none the wiser that they could be made into delicious foods.  I remember when I was picking them, riding around on my bike, intently inspecting every bush in all the public parks within a 2 mile radius of my London flat armed with freezer bags.  I especially remember picking the elderberries from the back of a bush and passers by looking at me in an almost alarmed way - What's she doing?!  When I was picking the blackberries some teenagers spotted me and one said to the other "I told you they were edible!!"

I made a delicious rosehip and apple jelly last autumn but then lost the momentum.

But right now, I've got it back.  The haw berry ketchup is complete and tastes delicious.  I got my boyfriend's approval with that one.  He had some with his sausages this morning!

I am still working on the pontack sauce.  It is currently simmering on the oven and I am sure it will make another delicious sauce.

There is something so grounding about making preserves out of foraged foods, I'm now hooked again!

Haw Berry Sauce (makes 300ml sauce)

Ingredients:   500g hawthorn berries, 300ml white wine vinegar, 300ml water, 150g sugar, pepper and salt to taste

How:  Simmer the haw berries in 300ml water and 300ml vinegar for half an hour or so.  What you are looking for is the haw berries getting soft and the sauce looking red-brown in colour.  Take off the heat and rub through a sieve pushing as much as you possibly can through the sieve leaving the large stones behind.  You will get a nice pureed type paste of haw berries in the pan below the sieve.  Simmer this liquid adding in the sugar.  Simmer for about 5 minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.  When it is completely to your liking, pour into your sauce bottle.

Pontack Sauce (makes 350ml sauce)

Ingredients:  500g elderberries, 500ml cider vinegar, 200g chopped shallots, 6 cloves, 4 allspice berries, handful of peppercorns, nugget of ginger or teaspoon of ginger paste.

How:  Put the elderberries mixed with the cider vinegar in a dish and put them in the oven on a low heat (about 120 degrees C) for about 6 hours.  Next, put the mixture into a saucepan and add the chopped shallots and all the spices.  Simmer for about half an hour.  Next, pour the mixture through a sieve.  Next, bring the mixture to the boil for 5 minutes and pour into your sauce bottle.

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