I often leave a pair of boots in the back of the car for those spontaneous moments when unsuitable footwear could stifle your sense of adventure. Picking blackberries last week with only one container I considered an alternative use for my wellies. I wonder how many jars of Hedgerow Jelly I would have got from two boots full of berries? I didn’t follow that thought; I’m not quite that batty!
At the heart of all the best hedgerow jellies is the crab apple, explains Pam Corbin in the River Cottage Preserves Handbook. ”The pectin in this often scarred and scabby fruit lends the setting power that many hedgerow berries lack”. I wasn’t able to find any crab apples in time for this picking of berries so used Bramleys instead.
To make Hedgerow Jelly (Pam Corbin’s version)
1 kg crab apples (or cooking apples)
1 kg mixed hedgerow berries (I used elderberries and blackberries)
around 900g granulated sugar
- Pick over your fruit, removing stalks and leafy bits and rinsing the berries if necessary. Don’t peel or core the apples (they’re an excellent source of pectin), just chop them roughly. Place all the prepared fruit in a saucepan with 1.2 litres of water and simmer until all the fruit is soft and pulpy.
- Have ready a scaled muslin cloth to turn the contents of the pan into and leave to drip overnight (see making redcurrant jelly for details of how to make a DIY jelly strainer and why you shouldn’t rush this stage)
- The next day measure the juice – you will probably have about 1.2 litres, though this will depend on the berries used. For every 600ml juice allow 450g sugar. Put the juice into a large pan and slowly bring to the boil. Add the sugar as it just comes to the boil and keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. Then boil rapidly, without stirring, for 9-10 minutes until the setting point is reached. Skim the jelly and pot and seal as quickly as possible. Use within 12 months.A note about finding the setting point… I made this rather hastily last week before visiting family in London for a few days. When I came back I had to reboil it because it hadn’t set (that’s what happens when you don’t have a thermometer and feel a bit smug that your first ever jelly making attempt was so successful without one). I reluctantly bought a thermometer and while it’s reassuring to know it’s in the drawer I don’t feel I need it now. So what’s my top tip for being sure your juice has reached the right temperature to set? Always use your biggest pan, never take your eye off it while it’s boiling and just when it threatens to bubble up and over the sides lift it off. Guaranteed 105 degrees C every time.