Its probably a little early in the year for posting this but then again it may not be. Hopefully it will give all of you who preserve or are interested in doing the same an opportunity to purchase this lovely book in advance of berry season. When I buy books I always search around for the cheapest price including second hand bookstalls, shops etc.
I would mention here that this is my own personal view and not associated with any form of advertising etc. Its just when I find something really good I like to share.
This book is split into sections. flowers and hips, leaves, berries, fruit with stones and fruit with pips, and nuts which makes it easy to use, but it does mean that the book does not follow on seasonally throughout the book but it does section by section so you do need to go to the relevant section to find out what is next in season.
So lets start at the beginning.
I have had a very lazy morning here looking for a book with a particular recipe in. I had promised the recipe to an Internet friend who I have not yet met. She is however very enthusiastic and passionate about growing her own food and also utilising the wild larder. Yes Tracy I am talking about you. but so far the particular book I have been looking for has eluded bejng found but I will find it.
Anyway I digress slightly as usual. Whilst looking for the missing book and recipe I have come across a book which I think is particularly lovely entitled Hedgerow cookbook by Wild at Heart ISBN 978-1-86205-956-6. I also think Tracy that this book will give you lots more scope with recipes but also how to make puddings that the children will love like ice cream and sorbet and some more serious recipes for adults that are alcohol based.
It has some lovely different recipes to the more traditional country preserving recipes but the recipes are very useful just the same. For example when young nettles are available there are recipes for nettle soup, nettle beer, rabbit casserole with nettle dumplings ,Turkish nettle and feta filo pastries (Borek), amazingly green pasta ribbons. Lots of lovely recipes but I am always looking for so much more and ideas for what I can do within my own home to use said recipes and how to incorporate bits and bobs that are different along the way i.e put my own take on things.
Just off the top of my head for starters yoy could freeze the soup and maybe dehydrate it. I don't see why not and you could also add it to vegetable or meat soups to give a little more flavour and more vitamin intake. You could also make lots of the pasta whilst the nettles are in season and store this by freezing or drying for use later in the year.
For nettles you want them at their best and youngest so picking them from March until the nettle starts to flower is the optimum time for this. So mark your diary for March next year to start harvesting fresh nettles.
These nettles are too old really you want them something like this but a lighter green as when they go darker they go bitter.
These nettles have the flower on them so they are too old
Did you know that country people used to eat nettles originally to purge their systems of all the salt and additives that had built up in their systems over the winter months. Remember the diet was very different then and much of the meat was salted and preserved so the nettle (supposedly) helped get rid of the salt build up in our systems].
This is just a snippet but we are coming slowly up to the autumn months and it would be a shame to not make use of all those berries and there are so many ways of using and storing them. They also make a lovely cordial and nettle wine (C J Berry) recipe with the addition of dried root ginger (which I have been able to obtain from our local Asian shop) is very much one of the lovelier wines. It rates up there with Rhubarb, plum, gooseberry and apple and is also a family favourite.
There are also recipes for bramble jelly, and blackberry seedless jam, bramble and apple jam with cinnamon, gorgeous bramble chutney, bramble sorbet and ice cream, blackberry and apple crumble cake, bramble fool, old fashioned bramble pudding, blackberry port and almond trifle (I think this would be good to have at Christmas).
However don't forget to freeze the berries or make into cordials and syrups or to dry them for use in your own homemade muesli or granola or add the berries to your chosen breakfast cereal. The berries can be once dried ground down into powder and then used in cake decorating and also to milk shakes with fresh fruit which will turn it a lovely plummy colour. There is also a useful section of recipes on how to use wild bilberries, elderberries, rowan berries, berry mixtures and so much more. I just love this book there is something for everyone in it. It is written by two very passionate ladies Caro Wilson and Ginny Knox who together are Wild at Heart; which is also the name of their preserves company. I have bought some of their preserves and they are very good.
At the end of the day its all about the recipes and once you have them you can do all sorts. I have been known to buy a book just for one particular recipe. I collect recipes and keep them safe and from time to time wade through them and bring them out and use them. The Internet also has some lovely recipes on but its not the same as a book. You have to print them off when you see them as a lot of the time they are not always there when you go back.
When it comes to preserving you are only ever limited by yourself and your own imagination and finding things that work together for you and your family and your palate is the other part of the equation. A lot of people are put off preserving because they don't know how to use the preserve. The recipes have survived over the years but some of the ways in which those recipes were used has been lost.
For example, I use bramble jelly in gravies as well as on toast or on bread and butter but you can also add it to cakes with buttercream or make your own home made pastries and add the same instead of jam. (really it is a jam but without the pips and fibre). If you have children and you bake you really cannot afford not to make your own jams and jellies. Just think of the of the superior flavour and the more you will get for your money by making your own. I also use elderberry jelly in gravies but also use it as a base for making my own barbecued sauce for rack of ribs. I also use my own home produced Chinese Plum Sauce. It is just a matter of blending everything together and then basting the ribs with the mixture and then cooking. I also use plum jelly as a base for a stir fry (a Scandinavian friend I used to give a few jars of plum jelly to came up with this idea) and he used to snaffle a few jars off me everytime I saw him. The method I use for plum jelly is an old fashioned recipe that produces quite a lot. I will post that shortly.
So if you have not preserved before start with something simple like vinegar pickles i.e. pickled beetroot or pickled onions, then have a go at a chutney, then a simple jam, then a curd and then a jelly which is a little more time consuming. I was not taught per se to preserve although I was always around my mum and Nan and watched what they did. However when it comes down to the nitty gritty a lot of what I have learned has been from books and experimentation in my own kitchen. Be prepared not to get it quite right at the beginning but if you keep at it you work out for yourself not what to do; its a learning curve but you get better each time you have a go at it and once you have a particular method sorted you move on to a different method. Trust me you will get there in the long run.