Rowan and Apple Jelly – A deliciously smoky, tangy and jewel-like jelly that goes perfectly with game, lamb, cheese and charcuterie. Made with “free” foraged berries from a tree on the lane opposite our house, and with windfall apples from our orchard.
The red berry tree waved its branches provocatively in the gentle breeze, flaunting her jewelled bounty as I washed the dishes after Sunday lunch. There she stood, in the hedgerow opposite our house, a once unremarkable tree save for her verdant green leaves, she was now positively blooming, with boughs trailing almost to the ground which were laden with bright red berries, that almost glowed in the late summer sun. I have always loved Rowan trees, and remember my maternal grandmother telling me stories about their “magic powers”, they are trees that are steeped in history with links going right back to the Druids and Celtic Britain.
The Rowan belongs to the rose family and is known by several names, “Mountain Ash”, “The Lady of the Mountain”, “Witch Wiggin Tree”, “Keirn” and “Cuirn”. Its links to ancient Britain and Druids and Celts is that they believed that the tree was sacred, and that you could only use any part of it for special religious ceremonies. Even the Vikings held the tree in high esteem, and made “Runes” from the wood which were then worn to protect them against sorcery or the “evil eye”. You will often see Rowan trees planted near the doorways and gates of country houses, barns and cottages, as they were also believed to protect the household from evil spirits and misfortune.
The berries are a beautiful bright scarlet, and are packed with vitamins and minerals, as well as containing more vitamin C than citrus fruits. The berries when eaten raw are bitter, but not poisonous, although they will give you an upset stomach, so the best way to eat them for their medicinal properties, of which there are many, is to make jam, jelly or wine with them. I remember enjoying a wonderful plate of locally reared lamb when I was on the Isle of Mull many years ago, which was accompanied by a vibrant red jelly, which I subsequently discovered was rowan jelly. The taste stayed with me for years, and so this year I have decided to make my own, especially as the tree opposite was beckoning me to pick the berries!
My recipe for Rowan & Apple Jelly is shared below, on a printable recipe card, and is extremely easy to make – you just need to plan ahead, as you need to collect the juice from the berries and fruit overnight before making the jelly the next day. If you are after a slightly “Campari” or “Aperol” bitter taste, than use half the weight of the berries with apples. If you want a mellower taste, than use equal measures of berries and apples, but the colour won’t be as red and jewel-like though. I’ve been scouring the hedgerows for a few weeks now, picking blackberries and sloes, and even some rose-hips, all for preserving, so do keep popping back to see what I’ve made in part two of my new Hedgerow Harvest series. Bye for now, Karen
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