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Make hedgerow jelly with foraged berries and fruit including blackberries, raspberries, plums, and apples. Customize it with whatever berries you have though — it’s a great way to preserve autumn’s bounty in a jar!
Autumn is in full swing and with it has come the ripening of berries and fruits in hedgerows, parks, and the fringes of woodland. While it gives me a lot of pleasure to grow food there’s something about slipping on a pair of wellies and hunting through the brambles that makes my inner hunter-gatherer jump for joy. I’m clearly not the only one since foraging has become a trendy hobby and patches of rogue raspberries and thorny sloes are often kept a tightly guarded secret.
There are some very easy wild foods to forage in autumn, but some of the easiest are berries. Blackberries are the most easily identifiable but also wild raspberries, elderberries, haws, and many more. You’ll have berries and fruit specific to your region too, so feel free to customize this hedgerow jelly recipe to use what you have available.
Berries for Hedgerow Jelly
Foraged fruit can be used in all manner of preserves and desserts but one of the most classic and versatile is mixed fruit jelly often called ‘Hedgerow Jelly’. It’s a mixture of tart apples and two or three (or more!) different types of berries of your choice. You can plan your jelly out to have specific flavors or just use what you had available.
Hedgerows are the living boundaries of fields and are a commonplace to forage in Britain and Europe. Instead of fences, fields are separated from each other, and roads, by a thick row of shrubby trees. Hawthorn is a common tree to use because it has thorns, making it useful to keep animals in. You’ll also find dozens of other species growing there making them a rich source of food and shelter for wildlife.
Yesterday I only found a handful each of elderberries, raspberries, and blackberries and some knobbly cooking apples. On their own, they weren’t very impressive but together they’ve come together to make a delicious preserve that’s loaded with autumn flavor and goodness.
Hedgerow Jelly Recipe
One of the best things about this recipe is that you can customize it to your heart’s content! That could be based on preference, or dictated by whatever you have on hand. I would strongly encourage you to choose tart apples for the recipe though. Bramley cooking apples are great. Alternatively, you could mix crabapples and dessert apples.
There’s also no right or wrong mixture of berries when you make hedgerow jelly, as long as the berries are edible. With that in mind, have a look at the berries above. This mixture of raspberries, blackberries, and elderberries gives a gorgeous red jelly. If you use another mixture, your jelly may be a different color (like the rose-hip jelly photo at the bottom of this piece).
Another thing to keep in mind is that you must be patient with the jelly bag step in the recipe. If you squeeze it at all while it’s dripping, then your jelly will not be clear. Let it strain and drip on its own and you’ll be rewarded with clear hedgerow jelly that looks and tastes incredible.
Hedgerow Jelly Recipe
- 1 lb Cooking apples (or crab apples or flowering quince) (500 g)
- 1 lb Hedgerow fruit and berries of your choice (500 g / supplement with other fruit if you don't have enough)
- 2.25 cups White granulated sugar (450 g / 15.87 oz)
- 2.5 cups Water (600 ml)
- Clean and sterilize your preserving jars. Run them through the dishwasher or place them in the oven at 270°F (130°C) for 20 minutes and then let them cool. Inspect them for any cracks or imperfections and discard any that aren't perfect. The lids can go in the dishwasher too or you can pour scalding water over them and leave them in it for five minutes before repeating. Allow them to fully air-dry before you use them to seal your jars.
- Put a plate in the freezer in preparation for testing the setting point.
- Rinse your fruit then chop up the apples and place them into a large saucepan with the berries. Don't peel or core the apples since the apples in this recipe are there to ensure that your jelly actually gels. Pectin is the magic ingredient in this equation and it's concentrated in all the apple bits that you might normally discard.
- Pour the water over the fruit and bring the contents of your pan to a simmer. Keep the fruit on low and use a potato masher or stick blender to ensure the berries have released their gorgeous flavor into the water. This process should only take about ten minutes.
- Set up your jelly strainer over a bowl and pour the berry-apple mixture into the bag. Leave the berries to drip for at least a few hours if not overnight. Allow the juice to drip out for at least three hours but preferably overnight. Remember that if you squeeze the bag to try to speed up the process that your final jelly will not come out clear.
- When the bag has stopped dripping, measure the amount of liquid you have in the bowl and compost the pulp. For every 2.5 cups (600 ml) of juice, you'll need 2.25 cups (450g) of sugar.
- In a large saucepan bring the juice to a boil then slowly add your sugar and stir until it's completely dissolved. Leave the mixture to boil steadily for about ten minutes until you reach the setting point.
- Check to see that the setting point has been reached by dribbling a small amount of the juice onto the plate you’ve chilled in the freezer. Leave it for a minute and then push at it from the edge with your fingertip. If the jelly crinkles up, then the setting point has been met and you can move on to step 8. If it just moves aside in a liquidy way and without any crinkling then continue boiling.
- Turn the heat off and let the pan sit for a couple of minutes until a skin forms on the surface of the jelly. Skim this off with a spoon and discard then pour the jelly into the warm jars using a jam funnel. Fill to within a quarter-inch of the rim and twist on the lids or lids and rings firmly, but not overly tight.
- Water-bath the jars to ensure that they're fully sterilized*. Fill a tall pan with water and place either a rack at the bottom. Bring to a boil then lower your jars in so that they're not touching and that there's at least an inch of water above. Bring back to a rolling boil and leave the jars in the boiling water for five minutes. Lift them out vertically (not tilted) with a jar lifter and set them on the counter to cool. The lids will seal as the jelly cools – you’ll hear a pop as the seal closes. It may take twelve or more hours for the seal to take.
- Store the clear jelly for up to a year in a cool cupboard. Once open, refrigerate, and use within six months.
More Lovely Greens Autumn Preserving Ideas
This hedgerow jelly recipe is versatile and a great one for bookmarking for any of your leftover mixes of foraged or grown berries. In the photo above you can see a version I made using only rose-hips and cooking apples. If you wanted to make the same, make sure to clean the rose-hips of the seeds and ‘itching powder‘ inside. Make sure to set some of them aside for rose-hip tea too! Here are more autumn preserving ideas for you to try: