Foraging for food is at its peak during Autumn and, with a bit of planning, you can stock your cupboards with all kinds of hedgerow-based treats. Here are five things to forage for in Autumn, as well as seasonal foraging recipes so you know what to make with them!
How to make rosehip syrup
This vitamin C-packed autumnal treat is the undisputed king of the syrups. Use rosehip syrup as an ice cream topping, or save it for adding juicy sweetness to hedgerow cocktail creations.
To make rosehip syrup, you will need…
300g caster sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
- Bash up your gathered rosehips using a rolling pin (or mortar and pestle if you have one) then place in a saucepan. Add the water then bring the mixture to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, then strain through a muslin cloth into another saucepan.
- Strain again through a clean muslin cloth. This is to ensure no rosehip hairs make their way into the final syrup.
- Add 300g sugar then bring to a boil, stirring until the sugar has dissolved and continue to boil for 5 minutes more, skimming off any scum that rises with a spoon.
- Pour into sterilised bottles when cool.
- Enjoy your freshly made rosehip syrup!
How to make hawberry sauce
The berries of the hawthorn bush can be used to bring fruity hedgerow flavours to gin or brandy. Alternatively, smash them into this tangy sauce to smear over sausages and other meaty treats.
You will need…
1 apple, chopped
300ml malt vinegar
½ tsp pepper
½ tsp salt
- Put 500g hawberries and the chopped apple in a pan with 300ml vinegar and 300ml water.
- Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes until the berries are soft.
- Push the berries through a colander or sieve, then add 150g sugar. Add salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken.
- Your sauce will solidify considerably when cool, so make sure you remove it from the heat when still runny. Store in an airtight container and keep in the fridge.
How to make acorn coffee
Every few years, oak trees produce masses of acorns. In these times of abundance (called ‘mast years’), fill your pockets and give this nutty coffee substitute a go. It’s a bit laborious to make as you’ll need to tame the acorns bitter taste by boiling, but the end results are worth the effort.
- Place a couple of handfuls of acorns in a pan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove from the pan and allow to cool. Take a sharp knife and remove the hard outer shells, taking care not to slice your fingers.
- Roast on a baking tray for around 40 minutes at 200ºC (fan oven) until brown and fragrant.
- Put your roasted acorn nuts into a food processor and dice them up before returning them to the oven for a further 20 minutes at 200ºC.
- Give them a final grind with a rolling pin or mortar and pestle.
- Use 1-2 teaspoons of acorn coffee per cup of boiling water. Allow to infuse for 5 minutes before straining and serving.
How to make crab apple jelly
We sometimes use the crab apples growing on our allotment to bring up the tannin levels in our cider blends. The ones that escape the attention of our insatiable cider press go into the jam kettle to make crab apple jelly. It works wonders on roast pork and makes a great accompaniment for a Christmas cheese board.
You will need…
2kg crab apples
750g caster sugar
Juice of ½ lemon
- Wash, peel and roughly chop the crab apples, core and all.
- Put your foraged fruit in a heavy-based pan and add water until the crab apples are just about covered.
- Bring to a boil and simmer until soft, which should take around 20-30 minutes.
- Sieve the pulp through a muslin cloth (or jelly beg if you have one) into a clean pan. If you want a clear jelly, allow the juice to drip through the cloth of its own accord, leaving it overnight if need be. Squeeze and push the pulp if you are in a rush and don’t mind cloudy jelly.
- Add the sugar and lemon juice to the pan and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar has dissolved then keep it on a rolling boil, skimming off any scum that arises with a wooden spoon.
- After ten minutes, remove the pan from the heat and test the jelly. Take a teaspoon of jelly, plonk it on a plate and place in the fridge. If, after a couple of minutes, your jelly wrinkles when touched, it’s ready. If not, continue to boil and test again after five minutes.
- Pour your jelly into sterilized jam pots and keep in a cool, dark place.
How to make sloe gin
For the aspiring hedgerow booze-maker, sloe gin should be your first port of call. Here’s the classic recipe, but you could also customise it with additions such as peppercorns or liquorice root either at the bottling stage or during infusion.
- Pick your sloe berries when ripe – give them a squeeze and they should feel slightly soft.
- Wash, stuff them in a freezer bag then put them in the freezer. This will crack their skins, ready for infusion (and also negates the need for the laborious sloe-skin needle pricking that many traditionalists prescribe).
- Place the sloe berries, sugar and gin into a large jar, seal the lid and give it a good shake.
- Put the jar in a cupboard or somewhere away from direct sunlight and leave for at least three months.
- Shake the jar once a day for the first couple of weeks, then an additional agitation every week or two thereafter.
- After three months, strain the liquid into sterilized bottles. You can get stuck in straight away, but your sloe gin will improve over time.
Have you been out foraging for food before? What’s your favourite foraging recipe? Let us know in the comments.