A few days ago I went for a long walk around a small mountain.
This is what I brought home; blackberries, crabapples, elderberries, sloe berries and a few juniper berries.
I have been longing to try my hand at jelly making for quite a while and it seemed a good day to try.
I also had a vague idea of trying to make a type of membrillo aswell. I recently came across this lovely post and recipe for "Elderberry Membrillo" at wildness.me/elderberry-membrillo.
For anyone who doesn't know, Membrillo is a Spanish preserve made from quinces often served with manchego (sheep's milk cheese).
I am by no means an expert preserver. I have only made small quantities of jams and curds in the past, but never large quantities. Jelly seems is a bit more tricky. It involves jelly bags, boiling at ridiculous temperatures, overnight dripping, set testing with frozen plates or thermometers and such like....
For my jelly experiment I roughly followed the recipe here bbcgoodfood.com/hedgerow-jelly-jam
which says to use an equal amount of fruit to crabapples, I was hoping the natural content of crab apples was enough to set the jelly.
Hedgerow Mixed Berry Jelly
1kg crab apples
20/40 slightly crushed juniper berries (dried in sunshine) * (I used 40 and the membrillo is perfect, but
the jelly is quite strongly flavoured)
Sugar (Measure the juice and add 1lb (500g) per 1 pint (600ml) juice )
Put the fruit in a large pan and cover with water.
Boil the fruit gently until it is soft. (In my case the crab apples were very hard, it was about 90 mins).
Be careful not to stain your clothes or kitchen counters. My kitchen looked like a scene from the "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" when I had finished and there were two purple stains on the counter.
When the fruit is soft, allow it to cool and then let it drip through a jelly bag overnight.
I didn't have a jelly bag so I used a clean natural cotton bag and hung it on rod over two chairs.
Do not squeeze the bag or the jelly will become cloudy.
The next day I boiled and boiled the liquid, but I was worried about burning it and I couldn't get it anywhere near setting point.
In the end I added a ready-made jam (pectin) mix and boiled it hard. Unfortunately the quantity went down from 3 jars to 2. Afterwards I discovered that the jelly remained liquid until it cools and then sets so I probably could have stopped boiling much sooner. I poured it into 2 sterile jars and as it cooled it set. If you want to keep them for a long time you should seal in a canning bath. Mine will not last long so there is no need. Once opened keep in the fridge.
The resulting jelly is not very wobbly but has a very intense taste. I will eat it thinly spread on toast for breakfast and use it as an accompaniment to roast meats.
Hedgerow Mixed Berry Membrillo
I am much more satisfied with my second experiment;
I took the contents of the bag and put them back into the pan with the
juice from half a lemon
and two strips of lemon peel/no pith
and just covered it with water again. The apples were still quite firm and I simmered it for about another hour. After cooling I roughly blended the mix (with a hand-held mixer) and then pushed it all through a sieve, discarding what I couldn't push through. This was quite time consuming.
I then measured the purée and added just a little less than the same weight of sugar. The puree was poured into a greaseproof-paper lined baking tray and placed in a cool oven (less than 100°C) for a few hours and then turned over for another few hours.
The resulting paste was a cross between a fruit leather and a jam. I let it dry out further for a couple of days before cutting it and wrapping it greaseproof paper. I am extremely happy with this (rough, appley texture with berry plus hint of lemon and juniper) and we are eating it sliced with cheese and biscuits/crackers/bread.
It combines really well with pecorino (sheep's milk cheese), smoked "scamorza " or my favourite combination which is "primo sale" cheese (cow's milk fresh cheese) with chili-peppers served with digestive biscuits.
Would I make it again? Oh yes, (just once a year) but, I would probably skip the jelly or at least practice with other types of jelly first to get the hang of it and stick to small quantities.
* Caution should be used with juniper berries as some species are toxic.
They should not be consumed in quantity or by children or pregnant ladies.