We used to be hunter gatherers foraging the hedgerows.
Autumn is a great time for berries, herbs, seeds and fungus to name a few and the hunting season is about to begin, even though most of us get our food from shops these days. Shops too have changed considerable over the last 50 years. Remember the days when items were kept behind the counter and weighed, measured and wrapped in brown paper parcels tied up with string.
I have to admit I’m too young but I can picture it in a good Western movie. When I did a little research I was surprised that it was not until 1916 that an American entrepreneur called Clarence Saunders developed the first self service store called Piggly Wiggly. It was widely regarded as a concept of genius!
The first proper supermarket was not opened until 1930. Packing high, pricing low was the slogan and separate aisles and departments within stores began to develop. The Americans closely followed by the Canadians fast tracked towards today’s individual plastic wrapped vegetables. We Brits were a little slower to understand this consumer trend and it was not until 1947 that we began to see a few supermarkets in our larger cities. In 1951 ex-US Navy sailor Patrick Galvani, opened a chain of supermarkets across the country but he lost out to a little known fledgling company called Tesco in 1960 and the rest is history.
Back to last weekend when I was out gathering. We were staying at a cottage in the Cotswolds and in the garden was a laden crab apple. They are beautiful mini red apples about the size of a cherry tomato. I recognised them instantly as we have been buying them, dipping them in caramel and serving them as a fun sweet canapé or dessert garnish. I rallied my troops (better know as kids), we picked three kilos and made jelly.
- 3 kg crab apples
- 750g golden caster sugar
- 1 lemon, juiced
We washed the apples and removed the blossom heads. We put them all into a large saucepan, covered them in water and brought them to the boil, then simmered them for about half an hour. We allowed to cool a little before handling. I lined a sieve with muslin and whilst still warm poured the pulp through it. I placed a bowl below to allow it to drip overnight.
In the morning we had about a litre of juice. We put it all back in the saucepan and added the sugar and lemon juice to taste, the measurements are guidelines. We stirred to dissolve the sugar and brought it back to the boil before keeping it on a good rolling boil for a good half an hour. We skimmed off any froth and tested whether the jelly was ready to set by dipping a clean spoon into the boiling jam and chilling in the fridge. When it solidified on the back of the spoon it was ready.
We poured the jam into warm, sterilised preserving jars and tightly sealed them while still slightly warm.
It is good served with baked ham, in a cheese sandwich or to make a cream sauce to serve with roasted pork tenderloin. Delicious foraging!