Wikipedia defines a hedgerow as “a line of closely spaced shrubs and tree species, planted and trained to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area.” In England many hedges are hundreds of years old and typically contain Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel and over native trees. In time the original hedge becomes colonized with other shrubs such as Brambles, Elder, Bullace, Crab apple and Dog Rose. In some areas the “hedges” can be the last remnant of an old country estate or market garden where you can stumble on old varities of apple, plum and pear, greengages, currants and raspberries reverted to wild.
Everywhere you look you will find wild fruit of some sort, have a look around. There is a grassy area behind our estate which is great for elderberries, blackberries, bullace plums and hawthorn berries. The local disused railway line has apples, rosehips and raspberries and part of a nearby canal marina is a bonanza of sloes. Get to know your local area. Avoid fruit growing next to main roads and industrial sites as they are covered in pollutants, yuck!
But what to do with it all when you’ve picked it? Here is a link to a fantastic recipe for hedgerow jelly which I’ve been making for a few years: http://www.countryliving.co.uk/create/food-and-drink/hedgerow-jelly Inspired by the recipe, this year I’m having a go at hedgerow liquour.
You will need a large kilner jar or similar that will hold at least a litre of liquid.
- 250g sugar
- 250ml white wine
- 150g blackberries
- 100g elderberries
- a large handful of hawthorn berries or rosehips
- a large handful of bullace plums or sloes
- a 750ml bottle of vodka
Sterilize the jar. Wash the fruit. Gently heat the wine and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved.
Elderberries contain toxins which are destroyed by heat and hawthorn berries are quite hard, put these in the saucepan with the wine and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 mins.
Prick the bullace plums all over with a skewer, put them in the jar with the blackberries. Pour the hot wine mixture into the jar as well. Top up the jar with as much vodka as it needs to reach the top.
Leave in the jar, shaking it every other day for a fortnight. Next (I haven’t got this far, mine is still mascerating) strain through muslin or a jelly bag into sterilized bottles. Leave to stand for a month so any remaining sediment can sink to the bottom. Strain again, this time through coffee filter paper, into fresh bottles. Enjoy neat, or with fizzy wine/tonicwater/whatever you fancy or maybe invent a new and exciting cocktail! I’ll update the post when mine is ready and let you know how it went.
First update: Just strained into bottles and my it’s delicious! Very sweet, very fruity with a tannin kick from the elderberries. Looking forward to seeing how it matures.