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Until yesterday, I had never tried my hand at making a jam or jelly, despite being pretty handy in the kitchen. However, I was leafing through an old encyclopaedia of fruit and came to the entry on Rowan berries. Contrary to what many think, these are not at all poisonous and indeed can be used to make a variety of preserves, wines, liqueurs etc. Rowan is the red berried fruits of the Sorbus genus, and most people are famililar with these small trees which seem to grow everywhere these days. From August onwards they are adorned with clusters of bright red/orange berries, and as so few people use them you can easily gather them from the wild if you don't already have a rowan tree in your garden. They are a great favourite with birds however, so don't leave off your gathering for too long. For most purposes they are best gathered when fully coloured and firm, before they go mushy. Leaving then until the first frost is also a good idea as frost gives them a milder, sweeter flavour. However, you can also just freeze them for a day or two which serves the same purpose.
This recipe is for Rowan & Apple jelly. It is possible to make a jelly from Rowan berries alone, but the flavour may be a little strong for some people, so I have made one from rowan and apples. However, if you want to try rowan alone simply omit the apples from the following recipe and double the quantity of rowan berries. Both rowan and apples contain stacks of pectin so setting the jelly should never be a problem. If you have not made jam/jelly before please read the recipe through in its entirety BEFORE you start to make sure you have all the equipment needed and know how to prepare the jam jars etc.
1kg rowan berries 1kg apples (Bramley/Granny Smith) 3 pints water 450g sugar/per 600ml juice
1. Pick rowan berries, wash and freeze for a couple of days 2. Put frozen berries in large saucepan/jam pan and add apples that have been quartered but not peeled or cored. (I use sharp-tasting home grown apples and throw in a few unripe ones for extra pectin, but shop bought ones work fine too). 3.Cover fruit with the water, bring to boil and simmer 30 minutes, covered, until fruit is soft and pulpy. 4. Strain fruit through jelly bag or muslin sheet (or failing that, a pillowcase will also work) and leave juice to drip into basin overnight or for at least 5 hours. DO NOT SQUEEZE THE JELLY BAG OR THE RESULTING JELLY WILL BE CLOUDY- Just let it drip on its own. 5. Take the strained juice and measure. For each 600ml of juice you'll need 450g sugar. 6. Put juice in large saucepan/jam pan. Don't worry if it looks a bit cloudy at this stage- it will go clear when it cooks. 7. Start heating juice and add required amount of sugar which has been pre-warmed in an oven at 100C for 20 minutes. 8. Stir until sugar has dissolved then quickly bring to boil and boil hard for about 20 minutes, skimming off any foam. 9. When juice has reduced, test it for setting every few minutes by removing pan from heat and dripping a little of the jelly onto a chilled plate. If jelly is ready, it will set on plate in 1-2 minutes and a finger pushed through the droplet will cause it to crinkle and leave a permanent groove. 10. Ladle jelly into hot jam jars which have been washed in hot, soapy water and sterilised in an oven at 120C for 30 mins. 11. Cover jelly surface with wax discs (buy at any cookware store) then cover and label when jelly is cool. Yield is about 4-5 1lb jars (the regular jam jar size).
The jelly when set will be a fantastic bright red colour and should be clear. Its high acidity and sugar content gives it good keeping qualities, although I take the precaution of keeping jars I have started to eat in the fridge. The jelly is great on scones or toast and because of its unusual bitter edge (think grapefruit or tonic water) it goes very well with game or poultry. Enjoy!!!