One of the things we love about Autumn is the abundance of wild foods in the hedgerows… and this year’s hedgerow harvest is a harvest of all harvests. Sorry, but it is that good!
The hedgerows are dripping with blackberries, elderberries, rose hips, crab apples, damsons, sloes and all sorts of other useable crops that we seem to have forgotten about. It’s a glory of mellow fruitfulness out there so fill your baskets and larders with natures, natural bounty.
When you’re lucky enough to have an abundant harvest yourself or buy local produce from a farmer’s market or forage the hedgerows, you’ll want to put every last apple, berry and tomato to good use. Preserving food can let you enjoy the fruits of your labor for months to come, all through to next summer if you’re on top of things. What we love about preserving, pickling and storing is it’s a practical, natural and traditional way to turn crops that are so often wasted into delicious, economical food. And you don’t have to pick or buy the ‘prettiest’ crops, it’s a great way of using crops that to the eye don’t look so appealing – but flavour-wise you loose nothing.
Think of preserves, and we all have our favourites. The one that usually tops the list is blackberry jam … nothing more delicious when spread on a freshly baked scone or a slice of toast.
Making jam is probably the easiest and most rewarding of all the options, using a minimum of preserving accessories, a large preserving pan and wooden spoon. Jams also make great gifts – homemade jam in a good old fashioned jam jar … who needs a bunch of flowers?
So here’s why we think you should be preserving this year’s crop – whatever it may be!
Personal satisfaction – we all love the feeling of having made something ourselves, and breaking the usual cooking routine for an afternoon of jam making is deeply satisfying ... and instead of being consumed quickly and forgotten, your jamming session will last for a long time.
Eco-friendly - the concept of local, organic and free are never out of the glossy food-mag pages and for good reason, because they are all genuine benefits to you, your pocket and the environment. Why wouldn’t you?
Knowing exactly what’s gone in –having control over sugar levels and the quality of other ingredients, not to mention the lack of pesticides in the fruit and E-numbers, is something worth putting yourself out for.
Stocking the larder – 9 months’ worth of Jams, chutneys, pickles and preserves stashed away in the larder means fewer heavy items in your shopping basket, a sense of satisfaction and a great sight to look at - bit like having a wine cellar.
Gifting – make a dozen extra … as giving away homemade preserves to friends, instead of a bunch of flowers (unless from your garden) or a bottle of wine, transforms a social duty into something personal and thoughtful and says lots about the jam maker.
A final word … in order to avoid homemade disasters, and they do happen, you really should make sure you’ve read up on the subject, try to understand how jams set and why they don’t, and when you can use less sugar and when you can’t and where to source the high quality ingredients that are the hallmark of getting things right.