I really love this little tree, and now is the perfect time to make a delicious jelly from its sparkling bright red berries.
800g soft, ripe, slightly squishy guelder rose berries.
2 small oranges, peeled and chopped, including juice.
12 crab apples – the pectin content will make the jelly set. If you cant find crab apples, one baking apple will do the job.
White granulated sugar (quantity varies, see method).
A good squeeze of lemon juice.
4 x 300ml glass jars, sterilised.
- Put all the ingredients, except for the sugar and the lemon juice, into a heavy-bottomed pan, along with 500ml water, and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes, occasionally mashing the contents with a potato masher.
- Cool, and strain overnight using a jelly bag or muslin cloth. Don’t be tempted to squeeze, otherwise the jelly will be cloudy.
- Next day, pour the liquid into a measuring jug. For every 100ml liquid, add 100g sugar.
- Heat the mixture gently, stirring all the while so that the sugar dissolves. Add the lemon juice.
- Simmer for 20 minutes or until setting point is reached. Use a sugar thermometer if you have one – it needs to reach 105 degrees. Otherwise, pop a cold saucer in the freezer and add a blob of the jelly mix onto it. Wait for a minute. Then push the jelly, gently, with your finger. If it wrinkles then it’s set.
- Leave to cool, and in the meantime sterilise the jars and dry them with a hot tea towel or a low oven.
- Pour the jelly into the jars and leave until cold before putting the lids on (otherwise the warm jelly may go watery).
What to do with your lovely jelly? It is, of course, great on hot buttered toast, dolloped into porridge or yoghurt, or just eaten with a spoon when no-one’s looking!
I always think of Guelder Rose as a bit of a shapeshifter - somewhat deceptive! Think about it…
- It’s very common, but lots of people don’t know its name.
- Because the leaves are quite unusual, sometimes people think they might from a maple tree – again, they’re not.
- The fluffy white blossoms are sometimes mistaken for elderflower, but in reality they look totally different!
- Finally, the squished berries can taste a bit odd to some people. I have to be truthful - vomit (and old socks) has been mentioned once or twice! However, as soon as citrus juice is added, the flavour transforms, becoming fragrantly floral and fragrant. Phew!
It’s not only humans that like these berries! As soon as they’re ripe you will see mistle thrushes flocking to snaffle them (if the bullfinches don’t get there first!)
A WORD OF CAUTION
It you are not absolutely certain that the berries you have are those of the guelder rose, then don’t use them or eat them until you are absolutely certain. This caution applies, of course, to all wild and foraged foods.