Enjoying a hedgerow harvest

The autumn hedgerow is an abundant pantry of free food available to anyone who can learn to be confident enough to identify the ingredients.

Hawthorn berries, elderberries, wild apples, wild plums, rosehips, mushrooms and hazelnuts are abundant all around Otago right now if you know where to look.

As with all foraging, make sure you are very sure about the identification of what you are gathering and take it from areas you know have not been sprayed - plus it’s best practice to ask the land owner first.

We have a secret river spot where we’ve found blackberries, apples, hazelnuts, river mint and even globe artichokes. It’s my favourite place!

Gather your fruit on a sunny day, gently wash off the dust and process as quickly as you can or store in the freezer for later.


Hedgerow pie

Ingredients

Pastry

3½ cups flour

½ cup ground hazelnuts (or almonds)

½ cup sugar

½ tsp salt

240g cold butter of choice (cut into small cubes and put in freezer 20 minutes)

10 Tbsp ice cold water

Filling

6 cups of hedgerow fruit (I used wild apple, blackberries and elderberries)

⅓ cup sugar

1 Tbsp cornflour

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Pinch of cinnamon

Method

In a food processor place all the pastry ingredients except the water and pulse to a fine crumb. Add half the water and pulse again, adding a little more of the rest until the dough forms a smooth ball. Be careful not to overwork the dough.

Shape into two discs, wrap and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Take first disc of dough out, roll it out to the shape of your pie dish about 4mm thick, and gently press in. Cut to fit, saving any excess pastry for decorations or another recipe.

Pop in the freezer to chill for at least 20 minutes while you prepare fruit.

Chop any large fruit and place all in a bowl and stir through sugar, cornflour, orange zest and juice and cinnamon, then put this into the chilled base.

Roll out the remaining pastry, cut into strips and arrange in a lattice pattern over the top. Chill again for 20 minutes in the freezer while you heat your oven to 200degC.

Cook at 200degC for 30-40 minutes till golden on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve hot or cold.

Hedgerow jelly pop tart

Pop tarts — not just for breakfast and not just for children. I coloured the icing with a little black Doris plum juice but you could use food colouring or leave it plain.

Ingredients

Sweet pastry (see hedgerow pie)

Hedgerow jam

2 cups icing sugar

A little hot water

Freeze dried raspberries, sprinkles and flowers to decorate

Method

Follow instructions for pastry in previous recipe and roll out both sheets. Cut squares, placing a tablespoon of jam in the middle and spreading to within 5mm of the sides. If you like place a few extra berries on top. Top with another square of pastry and press the edges down with a fork.

At this stage you can freeze the pop tarts to be popped into the oven whenever you need a treat.

Place in a preheated 200degC oven for 20-25 minutes, watching to make sure they do not brown too much.

Cool, then make up a thick icing with the icing sugar and just enough water for a thick paste. Ice, sprinkle on freeze dried raspberries etc and leave to set before eating.

Elderberry syrup

This has many uses as you can see from the recipe below, but my favourite way is to take it like a tonic at the onset and duration of any sniffles. One part syrup to six parts hot water and the juice of one or two lemons.

Ingredients

Elderberries, around 750g (you can also add hawthorn berries, blackberries, rosehips and wild plums)

Water

Sugar (you can use cane sugar, coconut sugar or honey)

Thumb-sized piece of ginger

5 cloves

3 cinnamon sticks broken up

zest of 1 orange

Strained juice of 1 lemon or Πtsp citric acid.

Method

Process your elderberries by pulling the berries off the stalks gently with a fork, being very careful to pick out any green or unripe berries and as much of the stem as you can and place in a large

saucepan. Cover the top of berries 2cm with water and bring to the boil. Lower the heat slightly and simmer with the lid off for 15-20 minutes, being careful that they don't boil dry.

Carefully pour into a muslin-lined sieve and strain into a large bowl. Once cool enough to handle, squeeze as much juice out of the berries as possible. The remaining pulp can be fed to the chickens or popped into the compost heap.

Measure the liquid and place into a clean saucepan with equal amounts sugar or honey, the ginger, cloves, cinnamon, orange and lemon juice. Bring to a slow simmer, who stirring to dissolve the sugar and boil about 5 minutes until a syrup consistency.

Strain into sterilised bottles, date and label and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

Hedgerow Campari spritz

So refreshing, and bitters are a great way to stimulate the appetite and digestion. This can be made in a pitcher or by the glass.

Ingredients

1 part elderberry or hedgerow syrup

1 part Campari

3 parts prosecco

2 parts sparkling water

slice of orange

Method

Stir first 3 ingredients together, top with soda water and a slice of orange. Cheers!

‘Boot of the car’ hedgerow gin

A very crude method of kitchen medicine-making but it helps to speed up the process!

You can use any fruit you like in this and as you’re using frozen fruit you can build up your bushel over autumn, keep all the fruit in a bag in the freezer and start the process once you have enough.

Fresh or dried herbs like tulsi, juniper, basil, rosemary and thyme, ginger, cinnamon, orange peel and cloves are lovely additions to this - get creative!

Ingredients

Around 500g frozen hedgerow fruit, best are sloe, damson, hawthorn and blackberries (avoid using too many elderberries as they are safest when cooked)

Gin or vodka

Method

Fill a large mason jar to the top with your frozen fruit then top to the very brim with gin. Place the lid on then tightly wrap in newspaper, then a triple layer of bubble wrap, then a soft blanket or pillow case and tie tightly with string.

Put in the boot of your car for 2 weeks letting it roll around as you drive. Then place in a dark cupboard for at least another two weeks and up to 3 months.

Once you’re ready, place in a muslin lined sieve over a bowl and gently strain the gin. Do not press the fruit.

Funnel into sterilised bottles, label and date and it’s ready to go. Use in cocktails or simply over ice with tonic water.

Hawthorn ketchup

Reminiscent of hoisin sauce, and deeply aromatic, this hedgerow delight is amazing in stir-fried vegetables, with fries, fried tofu or with any savoury dishes.

Ingredients

500g hawthorn berries

300ml water

300ml cider vinegar

170g soft brown sugar

3 star anise

1 tsp mixed spice

½ tsp salt

Method

Place berries, vinegar, water, and spices in a saucepan and simmer around 20 minutes until the berries soften to a pulp. Press through a sieve, extracting as much of the berries as possible.

Add berry pulp back to the saucepan with the sugar, bring to the boil and simmer, while stirring for 5 minutes.

Pour into sterilised jars, label, date and store in the fridge for up to 6 months.

 

Elderberry no-churn ice-cream

This is the easiest ice-cream ever and you can pop it in the freezer and forget about it until you're ready to serve. I like to do it in a loaf tin so you can slice it and top with more elderberry syrup. You could use any fruit syrup in this recipe.

Ingredients

200ml elderberry syrup

300ml cream or coconut whipping cream

1 tin sweetened or coconut condensed milk

Method

Over a low heat, simmer your syrup for around 15 minutes till reduced by over half; you want it very syrupy and to have a low water content to ensure your ice-cream stays creamy and doesn't get too many icicles.

Whip the cream, then fold in the condensed milk and elderberry syrup, trying to keep as much air in it as possible. Transfer to a container with a lid or a kitchen wrap lined loaf tin. Freeze overnight.

Hedgerow jelly

Ingredients

1kg of pectin rich hedgerow fruit like wild apple, crabapple or hawthorn

500g soft hedgerow fruit (elderberry, blackberry, rosehips, damson, sloe)

Sugar

Method

Wash and cut your larger pieces of fruit into slices (leave the skin on), add all fruit to a large saucepan and cover with 2cm water.

Bring to a boil and simmer on low until all the fruit is soft - around 30 minutes.

Strain over a muslin-lined sieve into a large bowl overnight, being very careful not to squeeze any of the fruit. You just want the juice to ensure you have a clear jelly.

Once strained, weigh your liquid and add back to a clean pan with the same weight of white sugar. Boil until the jelly reaches setting point. Use a candy thermometer, or place a drop on the back of a cold saucer - it should set within 2 minutes.

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