Friday, 2 October 2009

Were You Dragged Through a Hedge Backwards? – How to make hedgerow jelly

One thing my ativar doesn't tell you; I have very curly hair, which refuses to be tamed. My mother seemed to say to me most mornings "were you dragged through a hedge backwards? Go back upstairs and brush it."

In the lane near my house I can pick sloes, bullace, hawthorns, rosehips, crab apples and blackberries; all within half a mile of the front door. If I can arrange for some people to help a couple of hours can produce quite a haul of fruit. These are taken home cleaned and picked over and weighed to create the right proportions, the actual recipe will be different each year depending on what is available but broadly it goes:

3lb crab apples (slit them)

2lb of reds (Rosehips, hawthorns)

2lb drupes & blacks (bullace, sloes and blackberries)

Juice of one lemon


The fruit without the lemon is cooked up in a pan along with water deep enough to cover all of the fruit until things are soft and the colours are flowing. Then comes the dripping, transfer everything to jelly bags; this is why cup hooks were invented. Don't be tempted to squeeze the bags as you do not want any pulp to go through, just the juice. Ideally leave over night and the next day you will have a beautiful fruity broth.

Measure the broth and weigh an equal weight of sugar; i.e. in kilos one litre of juice needs one kilo of sugar and in pounds one pint of juice needs one pound of sugar. Bring the juice to the boil and put the sugar in a 100c oven. Also put your jam jars in the oven to sterilise. Once the juice is boiling, add the lemon juice and hot sugar, turn the oven off to let the jars cool to a bit. As the scum starts to form on the surface of your jelly skim with a spoon to remove and continue to boil until the setting point is reached. My preferred testing method is putting plates into the freezer and dropping a small amount of the jelly onto the plate, leave it for two minutes and check that the surface wrinkles when pushed with a finger. Pot and seal.

The resultant jelly is clear and has a fantastically jewel like quality. It is great with meat, as a basis for gravy like sauces and on toast.

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