Foraging and free food

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It is useful to plan foraging trips at certain times of year, along with the time and resources needed to process your finds. For example, the following can be acquired during weekend walks from late August to October, and with careful development of a kitchen production line, turned into cost-effective treats that enliven an otherwise limited menu, or act as home made Christmas presents. (Take with you a pair of gardening gloves, secateurs, and plastic bags to help in the collecting process).

  • Blackberries. There are hundreds of varieties in the wild and they change every few hundred metres. Therefore if the first crop you find seem to be a bit lacking in juice, you might find more fleshy examples half a mile further down the hedgerow if you look carefully. You can add these to Apple crumble, turn them into jam, or eat them as they are. Try this jam recipe.
  • 1kg blackberries
  • 1kg caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice

In a large pan, combine the blackberries, sugar, lemon juice and salt. Bring to a rolling boil, and cook stirring frequently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the temperature of the mixture has reached 105 degrees C. Transfer the mixture to hot sterile jars, leaving 1cm headspace, and seal. Refrigerate jam once the seal is broken.

  • Sloes. These are round, bitter fruits that need to be cooked and eaten with other things to be palatable. Some people use them to make sloe gin, a drink greatly favoured by Victorian ladies and elderly aunts for some reason. I tend to think this is rather a waste of good gin, and cook them up with apples instead to make Sloe and apple jelly. Here’s the recipe for it, although you will need to invest in a jelly bag.
  • 1.35kg sloes
  • 1.25kg apples
  • Water
  • 450g sugar to 600ml juice

Wash the apples and the sloes. Cut the apples into quarters and discard any bruised bits. Put the apples and sloes into a large pan, just cover with cold water, bring to the boil and boil until soft and mushy. Tip into a jelly-bag and allow to drip overnight. Measure the strained juice and add 450g warmed sugar to each 600ml juice. Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved and then boil hard until setting point is reached

  • Rosehips.These are fiddly to prepare but worth their weight in gold, as they are full of vitamin C. In Rosehip syrup form, they serve dual purpose as a tonic for sore throats, and a dessert topping on milk puddings or yoghurt. I have also used rosehip syrup as a placebo ‘magic medicine’ for young children feeling a bit under the weather and needing a little attention. Here’s my secret recipe.
  • 1kg rosehips
  • 2 litres water
  • 1 kg sugar

Remove all the stalks from the rosehips and wash thoroughly, draining in a sieve. Put them into a large saucepan, add 2 pints water and heat until boiling. Leave to stand for 30-60 minutes to infuse. Strain mixture through a sieve, reserving the liquid, and put rosehips into a food processor or blender and chop finely. Return them to the liquid and boil up once again, leaving to stand for about 15 minutes this time. Strain whole mixture through an old clean tea towel, muslin or jelly bag. Put the liquid into a clean pan. Repeat boiling process one more time. Strain once again through a clean cloth (because rosehips have little hairs that catch in the back of your throat otherwise) and return to a clean pan again. This time add the sugar and boil for about 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced down and become a syrup. Pour into heated, sterilised glass bottles or jars for storage.

  • Apples. In autumn there are so many of these lying around that people barely seem to know what to do with them, so they put them in boxes in front of their houses free for takers. The most practical way of dealing with a glut like this is to make it all into Apple puree and freeze it, for use in puddings or as babyfood later in the year, or in Apple pudding, as in this recipe.
  • 125g vegetable spread (suitable for baking)
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 125g self-raising flour

Cream together the vegetable spread and the sugar until light and fluffy. Carefully add the eggs little by little, beating as you go, until it’s all absorbed. Fold the flour in very carefully and mix gently until you have a smooth mixture. Put 8-12 oz/50g apple puree or sliced eating apple (it works best with apple slices) in the bottom of a baking dish, then top with the sponge mixture, and bake for about 20 minutes at 170C, or until the top is springy and golden brown.

  • Pears and plums.A glut of pears or plums can be turned into crumbles (for example Pear and Almond crumble), or if they are a suitable variety, bottled for use throughout the winter. Plums are also good stewed. Alternatively, boil up and then puree for use as baby food.

One thought on “Foraging and free food

    Alison said:
    23 September, 2013 at 10:18 am

    Sloe Gin – that is so good; I think I might have to have a go this year. I’ve been foraging too – Apple & Blackberry Crumble:

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