Quince is another hedgerow fruit I’ve never tasted. Someone got to my dear friend’s favourite wild tree and picked it clean, so I bought a few.
They cut just like apples and pears.
Quince jelly would be so good. Very yellow, we imagine to ourselves. However we are overwhelmed with moving in a couple of weeks; the wonderful house in the countryside is ours! So jelly must wait til next year. Inspired by The Wonderful Weekend Book, we’ve set the quince to soak in brandy instead, waiting for the holidays. Star anise in one jar, cinnamon in another, vanilla beans all round. Oh, the sloe gin has turned a rosy shade after a day, and all the sloes have risen. Nettles infuse beside all of these, I shall be drinking it in hopes of finally getting over a very bad cough, and surviving the coming move.
Sloe gin is an enticing delicacy I’d heard of in snippets of conversation, caught in passing on a walk or while watching one of those British shows that make you want to move to the countryside. Slow gin? For a long while I wondered what sloes were. Some kind of sea vegetable? Roots? I met sloes for the first time over email, a surprisingly good medium for introductions that lead to passionate affairs, but that is another story. Our dear friend Sonny found the sloeberries in profusion, and sent me this photograph.
We spent this afternoon introducing the sloes to the gin. These have seen a light frost, so we didn’t prick the skins, just poured about an equal weight in sugar over them and filled the jar with the booze.
River Cottage Preserves has a simple recipe. I’ll keep shaking the jar to dissolve the sugar, and later on we’ll taste it, weekly it says, well, that shouldn’t be too much of a chore. In a few weeks the sloes can be strained out, and then we must be patient for as long as possible before we drink it. A whole eighteen months sounds like an eternity.
I grew up foraging in the rainforests north of Vancouver. We would pick salmonberries, huckleberries, blackberries, and some kind of stem that the kids called sassafras. I’ve no idea about that last one but I can just taste it now! In England I’m not as familiar with the wild edible plants, so I was thrilled when my copy of Hedgerow arrived.
This is River Cottage Handbook No.7, and now I will have to go and get the whole set. Those of you who watch River Cottage will know the author, John Wright, from his frequent foraging adventures with Hugh. It’s delightful to read his words, he is entirely amusing and gives a clear account of what to look for, when, and whether there is a similar plant that may poison you. The photography is beautiful and makes me a bit desperate to get out in the bushes before winter. I do know of a couple of good spots in London for elder and nettles and I’m heartily anticipating our new home in the countryside for its access to gorgeous wild food. Quince! Sloes! Wild strawberry, plum, cherry! Wood sorrel, fat hen, gooseberries, chestnuts. All very exciting and delicious.
A dear friend brought us a bowl of wild damsons. I’m excited to finally have some! What shall I do with them? Damson jam? Damson gin?
Farewell to our dear friends and family in Canada, to the summer and to blackberry season. I find the end of summer so bittersweet. We never preserved a single blackberry, they all went straight from the vine into little tummies.
wild blackberries, digital drawing, 2004, elisa rathje
Now we are flying into the equinox, and looking forward to autumn. Cardigans and fingerless gloves, squash soup and apple pie, collecting leaves and settling back into sewing and knitting. How do you mark the change of seasons?