We love foraging – or “scrumping” as a friend still calls it. Free food, endless recipe possibilities, a chance of food poisoning if you get it wrong and the reminiscent childhood thrill of adventure! I’ve always got a carrier bag with me when we’re out for a walk ‘just in case…’ Collecting wild foods is still a popular afternoon family outing in some European countries as we found out when vising Croatia where locals go out for wild asparagus and garlic. But sadly what to pick and where to find it seems to have fallen out of common knowledge here as life gets ever more pre-washed, wrapped and packaged.
So while crossing the Walthamstow Marshes on our walk back from the Olympic Park this weekend we did a spot of foraging. The sloes and rosehips look like they’ll be ready in a couple of weeks, but right now the blackberries are fruiting abundantly and we also found apples and early pears. We decided to try making a wild hedgerow jam and I’m very proud of it. It’s set very well and is delicious with a strong blue cheese and dark sourdough bread.
Ingredients: (makes 6-7 jars)
1.5 kg apples & pears
500g blackberries (or any other seasonal berries)
About 1.5 kg sugar
Wash all the fruit, removing any stalks, leaves and bad bits. Roughly chop the apples and pears, but there’s no need to peel or remove the core – these contain the pectin to make the jam set. It’s not pretty and it spits and bubbles like a hot red jam volcano – so stand back!
Add all the fruit to a large jam pan with 1.5 litre water. Bring slowly to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until the fruit is soft and mushy. Take it off the heat and let it cool a little, then pass the mixture through a sieve into a large bowl.
Weigh the pulp, then transfer back into the rinsed out pan and add an equal amount of sugar. Bring the mixture to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Beware – more spitting and bubbling. When the jam reaches a rolling boil keep on boiling for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile sterilize your jam jars and lids by putting them through a dishwasher hot wash cycle. Put the jars in a roasting tray in the oven and set the oven to warm up to 200 C, warm the jars for 10 minutes.
Carefully pour the hot jam into the hot jars and seal immediately. Store the jars in a cool, dark cupboard and use within a year. Once opened the jam should be kept in the fridge and eaten within a month – if you can make it last that long – hot buttered toast and homemade jam, what can beat that!