It’s time to make rowan jelly

We’re only half way through August, but already the hedgerows are ripening: blackberry, rosehip, rowan and elder are all ripe – if you look hard enough. This feels early to me, but then I’m always surprised when the first signs of the changing seasons appear.

The rowans have been turning orange, and now red, for a few weeks and I’ve been eyeing them greedily. I attempted rowan jelly last year, but didn’t pick enough and burnt the pan. This year I’ve been determined to make amends. So yesterday I went rowan berry picking.

Rowan berries

My trusty foraging book, Wild Food by Roger Phillips, recommends waiting to pick rowan berries until October when they’re fully ripe, but half the berries near me are already as red as they are going to get, and the birds have not yet taken a fancy to them, so I risked it and made my first batch of rowan jelly.

There are lots of recipes for hedgerow jellies, but here’s how I made mine:

  • pick about half a carrier bag full of ripe rowan berries (the reddest, softest ones you can find)
  • take the berries off the stalks (don’t worry if you miss a few) and wash them
  • cut up a couple of apples (core, peel and all)
  • boil up the apples and berries until they go mushy
  • strain through a jelly bag or muslin cloth and measure the juice
  • sterilise some jars and lids
  • heat up the juice in a large pan. For every pint of juice, slowly add a pound of sugar
  • bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point. Skim off the scum as you go (mine had lots). Setting point is reached when a drop of juice placed on a cold saucer starts to go wrinkly
  • pour into jars. Job done

I’m pleased to report that my jelly turned out really well. The rowan berry pulp was orange but the juice a deep pink. The set is quite soft but it melts in the mouth. The taste? It has a sharp acrid tang, and no matter how much sugar you add it won’t go well on your morning toast. But it is amazing with cheese, and I’ve been reliably informed with pork pies too.

My rowan jelly with cheese and biscuits. I ate everything on the plate as soon as I'd finished taking photos (not the raw berries though - they're slightly poisonous)

This evening my Taller Half and I enjoyed homemade quiche, cheese and biscuits, a lonely tomato from the garden, elderflower cordial and lots of rowan jelly. If you decide to give rowan jelly a go I hope you enjoy it too.

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About Yasmine

After working with horses for many years I came to my senses and got a 'proper job'. I now live in Weardale with My Taller Half, a mad border collie and 5 chickens. Still wishing I could spend all my time in the great outdoors
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3 Responses to It’s time to make rowan jelly

  1. dutch margreet says:

    I am backreading your hedgerow gatherings, much more luck in GB then in the Netherlands, I know. But please do not miss out on dandelion honey, I found English recipes and went gathering in this hot and dry spring, but found enough and it is a fantastic taste. Maybe to add a clove or two to one jar next time. Point is, yesterday I saw the dandelions are starting a second flowering bit over here, so maybe it is so in GB too. You just have to pick the flowerheads and next time I make sure to bring a folding chair and pick the yellow parts right after picking, because that is the easiest way to do it. It is weird to see elders and rowans heavy with fruits and then here and there a flowering sprig t the same tree, second youth maybe? Would mixing elderflowers and dandelions work,?, have to try.

  2. Yasmine says:

    Hi Margreet
    I made dandelion syrup this year. You layer sugar and dandelion petals in a jar, leave to infuse and then dissolve in hot water. Is dandelion honey similar? I’ve noticed rowans with flowers and berries but not elders – nature is strange sometimes!
    Happy foraging!

  3. dannyllama says:

    You should try Rowan Berry wine…it’s amazing !

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