Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Wild Fruit

What could be better than a vegetable garden - a garden where you don't have to dig, weed, water or kill slugs? A garden where food just grows without needing nurturing or care in a greenhouse or as a seed. Its all out there in the fields and forests that surround Mailhos - just like road kill but without the blood. Free and fresh berries, nuts and seeds that are dripping with vitamins and goodness and can be transformed into delicious delicacies. I've made a bet with Jean Francois that every day for two weeks, I will find a berry or fruit or nut among the hedgerows that we can eat without poisoning or killing ourselves and without turning into someone who knits their own yoghurt.
So far so good although the walnuts and hazels have yet to ripen but berries are plentiful and ripe.

Rose-hip comes first and although best after the first frost, which could be in December but by then the hoards of ravenous thrushes will have gobbled down every last one. The orange-reddish berries contain crowds of creamy white seeds protected by even more irritant hairs so they should never be eaten raw.
On Sunday I made some rose-hip syrup that will be our winter cold and flu, vitamin C syrup and is supposedly delicious over yoghurts, ice creams and pancakes....

Rosehip Syrup

1.5 litres

500g Rosehips
650g Cane Sugar

Pick over all the hips, removing stalks and old petals. Rinse well in cold water.
Bring 800ml of water to the boil. Chop the rosehips in a food processor. Add to the boiling water. Cover and boil again. Remove from the heat and allow to stand for 20 minutes. Pour through a muslin and leave to drip into a bowl for an hour or two. Keep the juice to the side.
Bring another 800ml of water to the boil and add the rosehip pulp again. Leave to stand again for 30 minutes and pour through the the muslin once again. Leave to drain overnight.
Combine both strained juices and throw the fruit pulp away. Measure the juice (you should have 1litre) and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar and heat slowly until sugar has dissolved. Boil for 3 minutes and pour immediately into warm, sterilised bottles and cork or close.
Use within 4 months.

and then yesterday it was the turn of the haw berry. The young leaves of the Hawthorn are delicious and nutty in a salad and a sauce of young leaves chopped with mustard, garlic, sorrel and a dressing of vinegar and brown sugar make a perfect accompaniment to roast lamb but right now the haw berries are the crimson glory of the hedges. Naturally peppery and lemony they make a perfect sauce for a venison or pork roast in winter. I made two bottles and Jean Francois likes it or loves it and might just replace the Heinz ketchup on his next burger.

Spicy Haw Ketchup

300ml bottle

500g Haw Berries
300ml Cider Vinegar
300ml Water
170g Cane Sugar
Half a teaspoon of salt
Black pepper

Pick over the haws and remove the stalks. Rinse well in cold water.
Boil the haws in a pan with the vinegar and water and then simmer for around 30 minutes or until the skins split and you see the yellow flesh inside. Remove from the heat and rub the mixture through a sieve or a mouli the remove the stones and skin.
Return the mixture to the saucepan and add the sugar and heat until dissolved. Boil for 5 minutes and then season with salt and pepper. Pour into a sterilised bottle with a vinegar-proof car and use within the year.

....and today its crab apple day. The forest below us in right now laden with fruit and as a pectin rich fruit is perfect for jelly with a little fresh herbs added. I'm think I'll be frugal and  make just a few jars as  I realise if I keep this foraging at this rate, along with the fruits from the orchard and my vegetable garden harvest, I'll be prepared for a 12 year underground nuclear war with the whole population or Salies de Bearn sleeping in our barn. Spring will arrive and I'll be feeding dried mushrooms to the chickens and forcing Jean Francois to eat a kilo of jam per day and when he becomes obese and diabetic, I'll feel truly guilty....

Crab Apple Jelly

1kg Crab Apples
450g Cane Sugar (for every 600ml of strained fruit juice)
3 Cloves
2 Cinnamon Sticks

Pick over fruit, removing stalks and leaves and rinse well in cold water.
Chop the apples up roughly and place in a saucepan with 600ml of water and the spices. Bring gently to a simmer and cook slowly until the fruit is soft and pulpy. Remove from the heat.
Pass the mixture through a muslim into a clean bowl and leave to drip overnight.
Measure the juice. Bring the juice slowly to the boil and for every 600ml, add 450g of sugar. Stir until dissolved. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes until setting point is reached. Skim the surface of the jelly and put into pots and seal. Keeps for 1 year.

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