The Foraging And Preserving Thread

For tales of your foraging and your preserving; and particularly for the preserving of the things you forage.

I generally forage either on foot for local goodies (mostly blackberries) or on a bike if the resources are more distant. I started making jellies/jams last year, as detailed in this thread, so I’m definitely a novice. My list of foraged feral fruit targets for preserves this year is:

  • Apple (jelly)
  • Blackberry (jelly)
  • Plum (jam)
  • Damson (jam)
  • Sloe (dunno yet)
  • Mulberry (jelly; there’s a tree in a local park – I can collect windfalls, so I’m OK with jelly but wary of jam)

This has been a cold summer in the UK, and everything is late. Just to get me back in the preserving groove, as it were (I haven’t made a preserve since January’s marmalades), I bought limes and lemons to make – uh – lemon and lime marmalade. And then, typically, the blackberries, plums and mulberries all were suddenly ready. So I’ve started with a bang this last week.

I did a pre-forage bike ride last Wednesday, realized the plums were ready – and found a load more plum trees with fruit, so at least they’ve liked the weather this year. Found a load of blackberries close to home. Gotta get out there! So I went out gathering on the bike on Friday – and someone had picked my plums! Outrageous! Fortunately, as I said, I had found more plums, so I was OK. Picked a load of blackberries as well.

Friday night – blackberry jelly using this recipe. Five jars of batch 2021-BB-00003, very good. Used commercial pectin to set this instead of apple – first time I’ve ever made blackberry jelly, first time I’ve used pectin.

Saturday night – lemon and lime marmalade using this recipe. Five jars of batch 2021-MA-00004, flat out excellent. Proud of myself. First time I’ve ever made this too – OK, it’s not foraging unless you count the fruit aisles in Tesco, but you’ve seen my explanation.

Sunday night – plum jam using this recipe, modified. (These are wild plums and very small, so I cooked them before de-stoning them.) Four jars of batch 2021-PL-00005, excellent. Not just the first plum jam I’ve made, it’s the first jam I’ve made (depending on how you classify marmalade).

Three batches, 14 jars in 3 days, Next up, mulberries – I’m collecting and freezing the windfalls, saving them up for a batch of jelly. Almost there.

So what are you planning? Or if you’re ahead of me, what have you been up to? Any ideas you’d like to share?

j

My mom’s real big on foraging and preserving, and the combination thereof. She has places for foraging apples, pears, peaches, plums, blackberries, raspberries (both red and black), elderberries, serviceberries, and cherries, and makes jams from all of them, as well as from tomatoes, peppers, and rhubarb that she grows in her garden. I’d like to make especial mention of the serviceberries, because they grow lots of places around here, and they’re delicious, but nobody ever seems to have heard of them.

She could very easily do mulberries (she has a tree right over her driveway), but the problem is that mulberries have basically no flavor, aside from a generic sweetness. Are they really only just starting around you? Here, the season has been over for a couple of weeks (finally-- say what you will about mulberries, but you DON’T want a tree right over your driveway).

All hail @Mangetout!

He has a bunch of foraging videos on his channel.

Yeah, really cold summer. Everything is late and now everything is arriving together.

Last year on a walk we found a wood in which there are service trees (at least, so said the kingfisher board*) - they are really unusual around here. I made a mental not to go back. Foraging them is an attractive thought, but to be honest I wouldn’t even know what the tree looks like, let alone the berries. Tough to be confident on that one.

j

    • All information boards for reserves, parks etc invariably have a picture of a kingfisher on them - no matter how improbable or wildly optimistic this would be. hence, Kingfisher Board.

I’m not sure I’d recognize the bushes without the berries on them, but the berries themselves resemble blueberries, except a reddish color. They’re also nowhere near what I’d call “trees”, though, so it’s possible that you’re referring to a different plant.
<Googles>
OK, it looks like “serviceberry” is a whole genus, of a variety of different sizes, and with variation in how tasty the fruit is. Our local variety appears to be the Allegheny serviceberry, Amelanchier laevis.

Oo - wow. I need to check this out.

j

Mmm - looks like it’s a different critter:

j

That sounds like white or red mulberries - if you get a chance to try black mulberries, they are well worth it (IMO) - good acidity and nice ‘berry’ aromas

Nope, black mulberries. Though I suppose that they could still be used in combination with something with strong flavor, like rhubarb.

Oh, another anecdote about Mom: A few years ago, she went on a trip to Mongolia (because of course, traveling to the other side of the world to sleep in a yurt is what all 77-year-olds do, right?). And while there, she noticed that apparently, that’s the part of the world where rhubarb grows wild. And so, much to the amazement of both the rest of the tour group and the locals, ten thousand miles away from her own kitchen, one morning she made rhubarb jam for everyone.

I don’t preserve any fruits, but I like snacking on tree fruit when I’m walking around. This summer I’ve had mulberries, service berries (or saskatoons, as I knew them growing up), crabapples, raspberries and chokecherries (I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, but there has been a bumper crop this summer).

Well, the mulberry jelly is in the books. It took me four days of foraging windfalls to collect 2 kg, which produced 4 jars of jelly and some bits and pieces (batch 2021-MU-00006). I couldn’t find a recipe I was happy with, so I used the blackberry jelly recipe from upthread with a simple swap out of the berries. Worked fine.

I can see what you’re getting at, but I think it’s a little unfair. It’s kind of a “Umm, nice” sort of preserve. Quite different from the marmalades, for example, which were more “Oooh, wow!”. But it’s very pleasant; and I’ll say this for it - it goes brilliantly with cheddar cheese.

Other foraging news:

  • In the same park as the mulberry tree, I tracked down a black walnut tree. There were a couple of windfall fruits - they were obviously very unripe, but surprising large. Very promising for later in the year.
  • Hazelnuts are still not ready, but that isn’t stopping the squirrels. What looked to be a bumper harvest is being whittled away.
  • I haven’t even started thinking about chestnuts yet.
  • Back to fruit for preserving - I did a pre-forage of a couple of local feral apple trees; crops look excellent this year.

There will be a hiatus in production now. Damson jam and apple jelly are a couple of weeks away. Sloe will be some time after that. Then another hiatus before (non-foraged) medlar and quince.

j

Photo call:

Google Photos

Note: foraged jam in foraged jars (well, re-used jars). Hence the flecks of original label.

From left to right: blackberry jelly, orange and lemon marmalade, plum jam, mulberry jelly.

j

I just realized the above should say Lemon and Lime marmalade.

Now, a word on getting sciatica: don’t. I mean, in truth the the pain wasn’t that bad (apart from the morning I couldn’t get out of bed). But nobody told me I would have a really weak leg - bad enough to make walking even short distances difficult, and cycling impossible, for a while. Weeks.

So: This has messed up my foraging badly. I could slowly walk just far enough to get to the local park, which was useful because the mulberry jelly I made got rave reviews. In my range limited way I foraged another 4kg of berries from the park’s mulberry tree, enough for 2 further batches of jelly - the berries are currently in the freezer awaiting some bad weather. (Make jam and jelly when the weather’s bad; forage when it’s good.)

By the end of last week I was finally just about able to cycle out to forage for wild damsons. There’s a good crop this year, and despite being menaced and driven off by swans whilst foraging, I got my 1.5 kg for a batch using the plum jam recipe linked above. Once again, I removed the stones after cooking the plums, though it seemed a much more onerous task with the damsons.

It’s not something I was expecting, but those damsons must contain a shedload of pectin, much more than the plums I foraged. I had barely started boiling when the jam started to set. I always clean and prepare a couple more jars than I am going to need; the plum jam batch filled four jars, so I cleaned and prepared seven. But because the boil was so short the volume of jam didn’t reduce at all. In the end I had to prep two more jars, for a batch - 2021-DA-00007 - that ran to NINE jars. Once again I’m going to pat myself on the back - that’s some cracking jam.

Here’s an aside: whilst I was banged up with sciatica, we went out to a small local market, and there I ran across someone selling a wide range of homemade jams, jellies and pickles. The Jam Lady, she styles herself. She saw me eyeing up her wares (professional interest, y’know?), and engaged me in conversation, so I recounted my recent activities.

“Mulberry?” she said, “I’ve never made that.” Heh - one up to me.

In an effort to recover and reestablish her dominance she asked: “Have you ever heard of medlars?”

“I have a tree,” I told her.*

So we have both made medlar jelly. Actually, all this was very good-natured (though I was feeling very smug) and we chatted for a little while. In Mrs Trep’s (jokey) account to friends, she claims my behavior was awful, and in this way justifies the fact that she bought a jar of gooseberry jam to relieve the awkwardness of the situation.

Yep, you got it - in the last couple of weeks I have made 23 jars of jams and jellies - and Mrs T is buying jam. :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming: :man_facepalming:

j

* - I really do - story here.

10 Sept: Apple foraging day! This is a local one - four miles, maybe, so no problem on the bike. I picked up an estimated kilo - weighed at 1.1 kg when I got home. Not a bad guess. Enough for a couple of jars, which is all we want - it’s nice, but there are other experiments which take priority, such as…

11 Sept: Sloe foraging day! This has been a very poor year for sloes round here, but there are some up on The Mount, one of my favorite foraging areas. As the name suggests, it’s up a bit, and it’s a few miles away. I cycled it, but it’s the limit of my current abilities. They say end of October for Sloes, but they grow in a real suntrap on The Mount, and they’re ripe already. But even there they are very sparse. Went out hoping for kilo, came back with just under 0.8kg.

13 Sept: Sloe foraging day (part 2): I know some sloes grow out where I forage damsons, so I made the trip out there. Got about 0.3 kg, so made my kilo target - enough for a couple of jars of jelly, which is all we want for this rather speculative tryout. They are all in the freezer at the moment, but I plan to make the jelly soon. If it turns out to be a good one, I want to have enough time to forage again this year. And while I was out looking for sloes, I noticed that there were still plenty of damsons, so I got another 1.5 kg for the freezer, where they can stay until that fallow patch about March. I’ll amuse myself with them then.

j

Yesterday the weather was lousy. So: on to some preserving.

I was busy yesterday. A batch of sourdough bread (two loaves); a batch of pumpkin soup, working my way through the remains of last year’s crop (frozen); and, of course, the main business of the day:

Apple jelly - using this recipe my 1.1 kgs of apples yielded pretty much exactly 3 jars of 2021-AP-00008, which is plenty for the year. Don’t get me wrong - it’s very nice, but others are rather better and a lot more interesting. I had hell setting this last year - this year it set in the blinking of an eye (well, ish). Strange. Maybe part of the difference is I have become very much influenced by my mentor J’s view that a runny jam which hasn’t had the volatile flavors boiled off is superior - so I’m aiming for barely set now.

Two batches of jelly in a day! The return of the mulberry! Using one of the 2 remaining frozen 2kg bags of mulberries and the recipe in post 11, I produced 4 jars of jelly and some bits and pieces (batch 2021-MU-00009). My opinion of mulberry is on the rise (and it got good reviews); so for these reasons this is my first LIMITED EDITION batch (very limited, as it happens). Jars individually numbered. I may yet sign the labels. This was always intended to be a giveaway batch (as Mrs T was giving it away before I had even made it) - it’s a real curiosity and, as I said, getting good reviews.

Speaking of barely set, I ran this one right to the limit. It’s barely set when refrigerated. Liquid at room temp. J would be proud. A bit of a fright - but it tastes great.

j

Note: regarding J and her mentoring, see the coelacanth jam thread for background.

It would violate the principle of foraging, but planting a serviceberry (Amelanchier “Autumn Brilliance”) is an excellent idea.

You get white flowers in spring, tasty berries (a heavy crop one year may be followed by a scantier one the next season) and dependably fine fall color. Great small tree.

I had one in Ohio, and also used to raid a row of them planted at the perimeter of a nearby housing development - no one else ever bothered to pick their fruit.