Despite the gorgeous weather we’ve been having lately, summer has definitely gone. Autumn is here. The temperature is dropping and the morning dew is taking until midday to disappear. However, all is far from lost! If you like being outside in the fresh air and you also like free food (Who doesn’t!?), then this time of year is brilliant. It’s not just the farmers that have a great harvest in autumn, we all can too, if you know where to go, what to look for and what to do with what you find!
I haven’t even got to the best bit yet: The children!
Fresh air = good for the kids.
Learning about wild food = good for the kids.
Getting them involved in making things out of what you’ve grown, picked, caught and harvested = good for the kids.
All this happy, healthy, educational, outdoor fun whilst costing you very little = good for EVERYONE!
I totted up what I’ve spent on extras (mainly sugar and liqueur) to help me to turn my foraging in to great food: £30! Just thirty quid to create all of the following…
I make lots of fruit liqueurs. If you buy some nice little flip top bottles and decent labels, home made liqueurs make excellent Christmas presents. Or, buy some big flip top bottles and keep it yourself! A little shot of blackberry brandy or sloe gin is an excellent winter warmer. I vary the amount of sugar I use depending on how sweet the year’s crop is. I also tend to increase the fruit content by 15% and reduce the sugar by 15% compared to the standard recipes you’ll find online*, but that’s due to my taste preference. I prefer to have gorgeous tasting brandy rather than fruity, sugary, strong alcohol!
I have a bramley tree in the back garden (but if you don’t, most folk with an apple tree have a glut of fruit so are more than willing to share. Or, find a wild one) which is laden with a great crop. I also hate food waste, so chutney is the obvious answer! The great thing with chutney is, you start with a basic recipe but then the world is your oyster as far as what variants you can make. I’ve made two big batches this year; A sweet apple and sultana chutney and a spicy apple, pumpkin and chilli one. Remember to let the chutney mellow in the jars for about two weeks before you use it to enhance the flavour and allow the vinegar to die down a bit.
We’re just coming to the end of the blackberry season, but what a great season it’s been. Blackberries are EVERYWHERE, so you don’t have to traipse across muddy countryside for miles to find them. A very important thing to remember if you’re making blackberry jam is that they’re low in pectin, so you’ll need to add the juice and zest of at least one lemon (or use jam making sugar, which has pectin added). This will help it set and also ensure the final jam isn’t too sweet. The only downside to jam making is that, because you’re dealing with extremely hot stuff, the kids have to stand well back! But they’ll love the collecting, weighing the fruit and sugar, etc.
Red currant or raspberry gin
Oh yes, this stuff is awesome. Now admittedly I went to the local pick your own for the red currants, but it was still way, way cheaper than buying from the supermarket, and the kids had great fun too (the title picture). I also picked raspberries too (because I can’t make raspberry gin from the two raspberry plants in the garden!). As before, jump online to get quantities of fruit, gin and sugar correct. And just like before, I make mine with slightly more fruit and slightly less sugar. But, both raspberry gin AND red currant gin are brilliant either neat or mixed with tonic for a long summer drink.
Fresh, whole herring
A mate of mine has a boat. He caught loads of herring and mackerel, so gave me some. “But I don’t have a mate with a boat” I hear you cry! Yes, but the reason I mention these two fish in particular is because, as long as they’re fresh, they’re so cheap and healthy that you should get some from the fishmonger or supermarket anyway! They’re easy to prepare and will give you a huge dose of omega oils and protein. I also get my three year old stood up on a chair with her apron on and talk her through the de-heading and gutting process so she learns that fish doesn’t always come covered in batter and served up with chips!
The foragers holy grail! Well, my holy grail anyway. They’re here for such a short time and are so damn rare that if you find these little gems you don’t go sharing their location! Often called ‘Kentish cobs’ because there’s more of them there, they’re actually a form of hazelnut. My daughter loves them. No need for any boiling or baking, just peel the husk off, break them open and enjoy!
So, there you go. No food tip of the week necessary this time as it’s all above, apart from three small things:
- Save all decent size jars. Wash them out thoroughly then sterilise them in a hot oven.
- Get a jam funnel. It avoids scolding your fingers and ruining your kitchen work surface with molten fruit!
- If you don’t want to fork out on huge kilner jars to make the fruit liqueurs, use empty, cleaned table water bottles.
Any questions or further details, just ask.
So, wellies on and happy foraging!