When I was introduced to "hedgerow leathers", the world suddenly became a sweeter place! The countryside and towns are home to more than just a hedgerow blackberry on an autumn afternoon! Most berries are best eaten raw, straight from the shrub or tree - why would you want to destroy all the antioxidants and flavour with extreme heat? Remember, birds and other wildlife require berries as a high energy source during harsh winter months or fat storage for migration, so be considerate..
bilberry / wild blueberry
Berries do not always have to be part of a sweet dish, so I figured, after creating this savoury-ish whortleberry jus to go with local Exmoor venison...
As a British-born Pole, I learnt Polish campfire songs which involved the picking of the "jagody" (pronounced "yah-goh-dih") which is a past-time in Poland - and there's lots of it on the heathland or ancient woodlands!
What is a jus?
A jus sauce pronounced "zzziew" is a thick French sauce typically condensed down from red wine, port and shallots. Perfect for meat dishes. Here I have created my own version of it...
Time of year to harvest:
July - August
1 tsbp olve oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
100 ml red wine
100 ml port
handful of whortleberries/wild blueberries
With your exmoor steaks, on a medium heat, fry both sides (however you like), with a little oil in the pan. This will leave some juices in the pan. Set aside once cooked
Finely slice the shallots into rings
In the same frying pan with the meat juices add the shallots and sweat for 2 minutes
Once sweated, add the vinegar and fry for 1 more minute
add the red wine, port and whortleberries, crushed a little
Turn the heat down to a low simmer and until the jus reduces to half.
Serve on your Exmoor steak and wild foraged spring salad!
with blackberry and hawthorn
Leather? That sounds chewy! This is nothing of the kind...
If you ever had 'fruit winders' in your lunchbox at school, then this is the natural and healthiest equivalent! If you didn't, you are about to embark on a tasty, soft and fruity sensation in the form of a high energy, healthy not-too-sweet snack
What is a leather?
A slowly and organically dehydrated fruit snack which is allowed to set into a soft jelly from the natural high content of pectin in some hedgerow fruits. The water naturally found in the fruits evaporate, well, naturally!
Time of year to harvest:
late summer - end of Sept
ripe blackberries - ice cream tub full
ripe hawthorn berries - ice cream tub full
fresh spring water (1/2 cup water for every 4 cups fruit)
1. Day 1: In the blackberry tub, suspend the blackberries in fresh spring water to remove all the insects living in all the gaps (overnight in fridge)
2. Next day: Wash the hawthorn berries to also remove insects and any dirt
3. With a fine mesh (Kilner straining mesh) pour in the hawthorn berries.
4. Place the mesh and berries into a strong, tall clean jar or container, big enough to fit your fist
5. Fill with water which just covers the berries. Clench your fist and push down onto the berries, squeezing out the fleshy, cream-coloured fruit so you break away the red-pink skins.
6. Once you have just red skins and stones left, discard (leave outside for the birds)
7. Do the same for the blackberries without any added water.
8. Mix together both the blackberry and hawthorn strained liquid juices and pour into a tray (brownie tray) and leave to slowly and naturally dehydrate under a grill / oven / warm area and covered.
9. Leave for a week to dehydrate or by using the excess heat flowing from the regularly-used oven.
10 Final product: a tray of fleshy dried fruit that doesn't fall apart when lifted using a fish spatula. Cut into strips, curl into baking parchment, put in your bag!
Where to go for the ingredients:
Hedgerows down country lanes
Spiced bramley apple and blackberry chutney
When you get the phone call in late autumn "would you like any apples??", you know someone's apple orchard had a fruitfully laden year!
Even a bonus is to receive Bramley apples (which originate from Nottinghamshire) which can also be mixed with other apples (to make your chutney. Devon ones are crisp and good for cider - recipe to follow). You may find community-planted apple trees (usually spotted covered with blossom flowers in car parks or country lane roadsides in spring) which are there, for you!
This chutney is sweet and savoury, perfect for quality cheese and port nights on a herby biscuit! Leave for 3 months to get a moorish chunkiness!
4 large peeled, cored and wedged Brambley/wild picked apples (2lb)
2 large onions (chopped fine)
2 shallots (sliced fine)
200ml red wine vinegar
200ml malt vinegar
salt and pepper
mixed spice 15g each - cinammon, coriander, nutmeg, paprika
2 tsbp olive oil
1. In a frying pan heat the oil on a medium heat. Add the finely chopped onions and shallots, sweat down.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients into a large pan (or preserving pan) and bring to the boil.
3. Reduce the heat, let the ingredients simmer for 1 - 2 hours, stirring now and again with a spatula to stop the chutney sticking to the sides.
4. In a sterilised Kilner jar (empty jam jar), fill with the chutney, leaving a 1cm gap.
5. Store sealed in a cool, dark cupboard. Eat from 3 months onward!