Foraging the Fruits of the Chilterns
It’s late summer, when the hedgerows of the Chilterns are starting to burst into colour with berries and abundant fruit – you can see blackberries and elderberries, crab apples, damsons, rosehips and rowan. It’s a great time for foraging and who doesn’t love a handful of free fresh blackberries on their cereal or a juicy plum?
Blackberry and Apple Crumble
You can find many. Perhaps you even have a family recipe.
Here’s one from the BBC website!
May Bartlett’s Toffee Apple Pudding
A handed down recipe from a relative of one of our staff members! An indulgent, sticky pudding that is great with custard or cream.
2 oz suet or vegetarian suet
4 oz self raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
Soft brown sugar
¾ 1b cooking apples
- Mix the suet, flour and baking powder and bind to a stiff dough with water.
- Roll out two thirds of the dough (thinly) to fit and oiled 8 inch flan dish.
- Layer the apples with a sprinkle of brown sugar and lemon juice on top of each of the layers – make three layers.
- Cover with the remaining rolled out dough, sealing the edges firmly over the top. Top liberally with golden syrup and sprinkle with soft brown sugar.
- Bake for 40 minutes at 180 degrees C (gas mark 4).
1.8 kg damsons
145 ml water
1.8 kg sugar
(Makes around 6lbs (2.7 kgs) of jam)
- Wash the damsons and remove all the stalks.
- Put into a pan with the water and simmer gently until soft, press them against the sides of the pan occassionally to break them open and release the stones.
Remove the stones.
- Test for pectin.
- Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Boil rapidly for about 10 minutes until the jam sets when tested.
- Remove the remainder of the stones as they rise to the surface, and the scum.
- Pot and seal in sterilised jars while still hot.
A traditional remedy for colds and coughs. Elder is thought to have good anti viral properties. People often take a dessertspoonful a day to prevent colds. Or 10 ml three times a day if you have a cold. Or, pour 30ml into a shot with in the bottom of a glass and have with water like a cordial, or put in some hot water for a hot drink.
(Adjust the quantities proportionately, depending how many elderberries you have collected.)
About 500g of plump, de-stalked elderberries
About 500g white caster sugar
A cinnamon stick
- Wash the berries (they’ll then naturally contain some water). Strip the berries off the twigs using a fork – be careful to remove all the stalks from the berries. (There’s a toxic compound in the elderberry seeds and also a small amount in the stalks)
- Put the elderberries in a pan with a about 1cm of water (or just enough to prevent them from burning and sticking.)
- Add the cloves, ginger and cinnamon sticks if you wish.
- Bring this gently to the boil then simmer – watch it so that it doesn’t boil over or stick to the pan. Mash them as they are simmering until they soften into. You can cook them for 20 minutes to half an hour max.
- Cool the mixture enough to strain the juice through a muslin to get remove of the seeds and pulp. You’ll be left with a thickish liquid. Put this back in the pan.
Add the sugar and them simmer it again to make a syrup.
- Put the syrup into bottles and it should store well for a year. But you can also bottle it in plastic bottles and freeze it.
Set a date to come together with family and friends for a Christmassy catch-up. Every Christmas gift and seasonal treat you buy helps care for these special places, to keep them twinkling for many Christmases to come.
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