Saturday, 15 October 2011

We've discovered a new hobby...

Something new for me to bore my nearest and dearest about......we've discovered foraging! I love a bargain, well, who doesn't? A freebie is better still. I've taken the kids for some lovely walks around the village recently and I noticed that there was still a multitude of jem-like berries hanging from branches everywhere. I noted these places in my mind and went back with the girls to fill our baskets with lots of lovely fruit. This is a pastime I can see continuing for some years to come, it may well become part of our family history. We returned home with purple fingers, muddy boots, pink cheeks and a lovely collection of goodies; elderberries, blackberries, sloes, damsons, rose hips, haws and crab apples.  I was itching to have a go at making something with all this lovely stuff and along with the apples from our tree in the garden, there would be plenty to have a go at. First up was hedgerow jelly which was, I have to say, a great success. I have never made jam before so this was a new venture for me. Second batch I tried apple & rose hip jelly, not so successful, set a bit hard but may be suitable for stirring into hot herbal tea and suchlike. Third attempt was a few jars of apple, blackberry & damson jam which I was pretty pleased with. My little darlings enjoyed helping throughout the process but I made sure they were well out of the way when it came to boiling up the jam or jelly, that stuff boils like hot lava! These had already been earmarked as Christmas presents so I let the children help with the labels and lids for the jars to give a personal touch.

I pinched recipes and some very helpful tips from here -  The Cottage Smallholder

All in all, a wonderful new enterprise. The girls had a great time walking around with little baskets for collecting goodies. We talked about all the hedgerow plants and which berries were edible and which ones they shouldn't touch (very important!). I let them have one of my old nature books so they could try and identify things for themselves and they soon got into it. The children helped with washing the fruit, measuring out the ingredients, stirring the fruit whilst it was reducing to a pulp and finally they decorated the finished jars. They are so proud of what we've made and they can't wait to give these little pots of goodness out at Christmas to our friends and family. I have to admit, neither can I!

I shall have to put my thinking cap on now to come up with some more Christmas gift ideas that the girls can help me make.