Sunday, 14 September 2008

Autumn hedgerow harvest

This time of year is perhaps the one period when folks think about 'foraging', rather than using the remainder of the year as potential food input time. What happens to those berries? Well, likely as not, they probably end up as jam. That's absolutely fine, but there's also lots of other interesting things to do with your harvested berries, and hopefully this post will inspire you to experiment further...

BLACKBERRIES: Perhaps one of the best known autumn berries, but usually destined for jams and pies. Well how about making a bramble vinegar? This can be used for unusual salad dressings and also for marinading meats like venison.

A bramble chutney is also another interesting possibility; minced onion cooked until soft with vinegar and then further cooked with bramble fruits.

SLOES: Normally these end up in gin, but instead of throwing away the spent sloes cook them until they are soft enough to loosen the stones and pass through a sieve. Add this pulp to melted dark chocolate, pour into a mold and then refrigerate to solidify. It makes a chocolate with an excellent ginny-chocolaty-sloe flavour. Eat pieces at will, or make a chocolate sauce to go with ice cream.

DAMSONS: 2008 appears not to be a very good year for damsons in some parts of the UK, but damsons make wonderful pies and jams and also a wicked Damson Vodka which is made in a similar way to Sloe Gin. Once time has done it's work then use the spent damsons for making jam.

Damsons can also be used to make an excellent Damson Chutney which goes very well with salty meat like gammon ham (cooked or cold) and with grilled pork chops where it helps to cut through the fattiness of the meat.

And then we have the nuts... Hazels, which everyone will be familiar with, beech masts (slow work to collect and shell), and ACORNS. Now most folks think of our acorns in Britain as being inedible or poisonous. In fact they are not, PROVIDING they have been prepared properly to remove the tannins. It is these large concentrations of tannins in acorns which makes them bad to eat under normal circumstances, but acorn meal does make an interesting addition to your wild food larder. Acorns may be used in cookies, mussins and for making pasta if there is another source of binder such as egg or wheat flour.

Happy hunting!

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