Simple Hedgerow Jelly Recipe for Autumn Berries
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!
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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.
- In Britain, it’s not common for people to water-bath high-acid preserves like this elderberry jelly. It’s much safer if you do though since it will ensure that the contents are sterile. You can read more on the topic here.
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:
Hello! Love your posts! Just checking out your jam and jelly recipes. Can I reduce the sugar on them? Like instead of 2.25, only add 1 cup of sugar? Would they turn out too runny? Thanks!
If a recipe calls for added commercial pectin, you need to use a certain amount of sugar to make it gel up. However, some fruit naturally contains more than enough natural pectin and you can certainly reduce the sugar amount in any of those. This recipe included.
In castile soap and melt-and-pour soap, water is not listed in the ingredients list but sodium hydroxide is. Does that mean that water wasn't added and the lye isn't activated, or that water was added, it activated the lye, and then evaporated? Did they just not add water to the ingredients list because its not there in the final soap, even though it was used?
Water isn't required to be listed since there's none left in the product by the time it's ready to use. Saying that, it's also not required to list Sodium Hydroxide thought many producers and soapers do. Instead you can list the soaps created by the different oils as a result of saponification. For example, instead of listing Coconut oil and Sodium Hydroxide you could list Sodium Cocoate, which is Coconut oil soap. Ingredient listing on soap can be inconsistent!
Those berries looking as beautiful as always :)
Our first flush of blackberries were very good Tanya, but now they have gone seedy and not good at all. We have plenty of crabapple trees on our land and they are all laden but the elderberries are being taken quickly by the blackbirds. I think I would find it hard to find enough fruit for this.
I love this! I've never thought of using all the bits and pieces; brilliant!
Looks really good, we just don't have things like that around here, our berries are at the beginning of summer.
Really? No blackberries even?
I have always been terrified to tackle making "jelly". It looks like a process where everything can go wrong but after reading this wonderful tutorial I think I might give it a go. Cheers for sharing it with us and from one somewhat relieved Tasmanian who is going to actually go blackberry picking in our coming season and do something with what I find aside from stuffing my face and getting purple fingers ;)
Making jam/jelly is fairly simple…especially when you're using natural pectin from apples opposed to the store-bought stuff. You should really give it a go :)
Those jars look wonderful, like jewels or stained glass. You are right, there is huge satisfaction from finding food in the wild. I think it is a primaeval thing!
No matter how many modern marvels we invent, deep down we're still the same people who used to hunt with handmade weapons and gather wild food from the land…
Can't beat a bit of home made jam.
Absolutely! (As I crunch on my toast and jelly :)
Even raw, the berries all look heavenly.
More than a few didn't make it to the pan :)