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Scaynes Hill Village

Foraging and Making Preserves

Over the last 4 or 5 years I've become more and more interested in foraging, from collecting a bunch of dandelion leaves every morning during my dog walk because they're the favourite food of my bantams, to my annual round of the fields and woodland to collect the ingredients for my hedgerow jelly.

Later in the year when all the berries, hips, haws, crab apples etc are ripe is when you can really stock up your cupboard to have a wonderful range of delights to last you through to the next summer (as long as you sterilise your jars and bottles and make sure they are sealed tight.) I give quite a lot away as Christmas presents so I like to use unusual shaped jars and design fancy labels. www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/1572679/hedgerow-jelly-jam is the link to the simplest hedgerow jelly recipe so start collecting your jars now for preserving in August. I've found that if you offer a jar or two of homemade preserve to the neighbour or friend who has an apple tree they are very happy for you to collect up the windfalls, which work perfectly well.

I have made two batches of nettle cordial this year which is so easy and fills the kitchen with a beautiful aroma during the process.  Eat Weeds (eatweeds.co.uk) is my favourite website for recipes and I've just seen a new one on there for gorse flower cordial which sounds interesting. If you've ever smelled gorse you will know it's got a rather coconutty scent. Last year I tried meadowsweet cordial by simply following the recipe for elderflower. It tasted a little perfumed to start with but was wonderful after it had been bottled for a couple of months. The nettle, by the way, is ready straight away and can disappear very quickly!

Rhubarb is also plentiful just now so how about making rhubarb and ginger jam. Gorgeous on toast or as a topping for a sponge pud.  There's a recipe on the BBC good food website.

The mint is growing like mad in the garden so you can make a jar of mint sauce now and it will keep until autumn. Carry on making fresh as and when you need it throughout the growing season.

You will need citric acid powder for many of the recipes which you used to be able to get in pharmacies but it's difficult to obtain now so www.meridianstar.co.uk/ is where I get mine. It's quite a good idea to invest in a jam kettle if you want to make larger quantities but for cordials a plastic bucket will do because the liquid only needs to have been heated to 60 degrees C. when you pour it over the leaves/flowers. Instead of an expensive jelly bag I bought a meter of muslin from Baldwins in HH and I fix it over a bucket with a big rubber band. If you don't know your plants then do look them up and never use anything you can't identify. For example honeysuckle can't be used and briony berries are highly poisonous.

15 May Posted by Chris Holden

Whether its sloe's for your gin or crab apples for your mint jelly there's something for everyone to forage around Scaynes Hill.

At the moment the great abundance of nettles is a fantastic source of iron and vitamin rich food. Just remember to take your marigold gloves with you and bring home a bunch to make refreshing nettle tea - hot or iced - straight or with a slice of lemon it's delicious and free. (Don't worry, nettles lose their sting when they are plunged into boiling water.)

Freezing is another great way to keep the summer's fruits for sumptuous deserts so load up your freezer with cherry plums, damsons, blackberries and apples from all around the village. It doesn't use as much sugar as jam so it's better for the waistline.

Whatever you try good luck and I hope you enjoy the adventure. Maybe I'll see you around the blackberry bushes this summer.