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.
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.
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.