Patrick and I are deeply inspired by our recent trip to Ireland, where we were part of a group exploration of the western part of the country, led by PNW-based ethnobotanist Heidi Bohan. This incredible excursion took us to some beautiful and remote areas, where we harvested the edible and medical plants of our Celtic ancestors, explored ancient dolmens, cairns and ruins, and learned firsthand from masters of traditional Willow basket-making and Crios band weaving. We’re still reflecting, integrating, and catching up on sleep from this trip (we just returned on Saturday!), but in the meantime, I’m inspired to share with you a delicious recipe for Hedgerow Jelly, which we learned how to make from Heidi while we were staying in beautiful Beaufort, Ireland.
Ireland is full of hedgerows. These wild shrubs, which border the crazy-narrow country roads and vast green, sheep-covered meadows, offer an abundance of edible fruits this time of year. Many of these wild edible fruit-bearing shrub species— and/or their close relatives— are also found here in the Pacific Northwest! Wandering through the forests of Ireland reminded me a lot of our beloved PNW woods.
On one of the last days of our trip, we spent the morning in a tranquil natural area that bordered a river, where we foraged for the wild abundance of Fall. We collected bags full of Crabapples, Hawthorne berries, Rose Hips, Sloe Berries, and Blackberries. Afterwards we returned to our sweet accommodations and spent the afternoon chopping and processing these delicious and nourishing offerings. We used much of the fruit to make hedgerow jelly (while setting aside a few cups of Hawthorne berries to make Hawthorne Ketchup and some Sloe berries to make Sloe Gin— yum!).
Here’s how we made that delicious Hedgerow Jelly:
-An abundance of wild edible hedgerow fruits. Right now in the PNW, Hawthorne berries and Rose hips are prime. There are even still a few wild Himalayan Blackberries hanging on out there (just be sure to avoid the moldy ones!) Blue Elderberries (found mostly in Eastern WA) are wonderful as well.
-Apples (in equal or greater volume to the hedgerow fruits). Crabapples are great for this, but if you can’t find any, cultivated varieties of apples found at the grocery store or farm stand will do. Apples are a key component of this recipe since they offer naturally-occurring pectin which makes the jelly “gel”.
-Process the fruits: roughly cut the apples and discard the seeds, leave peels intact. Deseed rose hips, preserving the fleshy exterior. De-stem Hawthorne berries and Elderberries, etc.
-Place fruit into a pot with a little water. Simmer until soft and mushy.
-Strain fruit mixture through a fine mesh sieve, muslin or nut milk bag over a bowl to collect the juice. Avoid squeezing the bag if you don’t want your jelly to be cloudy. (If you're taking this route, it's going to take a while to fully strain. Leave it to strain for a few hours by hanging the bag over the bowl). If you don't mind cloudy jelly (I certainly don't!), take the quick route and squeeze it through.
-Measure the juice and place it in a pot. Add 3/4 cup of sugar for every cup of juice.
-Boil rapidly until the mixture reaches a setting point and becomes jelly. Here’s a good way to tell when your jelly is set.
-Pour jelly into clean jars and store in a cool dry place. Enjoy on toast, sandwiches, muffins, oats, scones, etc!
Well, there you have it-- delicious Ireland-inspired Hedgerow Jelly! May you and your family enjoy the wild abundance of fall with this sweet treat!