Bullace Jam

You probably have just enough time left to follow in our footsteps and create the worlds most delicious hedgerow jam.

Two weeks ago we stumbled upon a laden bullace tree and decided to gather ourselves a few fruits for a stewed pudding. They were so abundant and easy to reach that a few fruits rapidly turned into a carrier bag full and I had inadvertantly created myself the chore of an evening’s worth of jam making.

I am deep in the depths of a sugar free, gluten free, dietary phase so jam making is not high on my to do list.

Fortunately the kids are less faddy than me and were happy with the opportunity to sample.

Bullace jam is apparently the “best jam ever”, and two weeks post production it is still the preserve of choice. Today I was told it forms the perfect accompaniment to applewood cheese and toast, beating quince jelly hands down.

So if you are quick, you might still be able to gather some wild plums for your own supply of champion jam. Here’s the recipe:

Bullace Jam
Arguably the world's best hedgerow jam......
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  1. 2lbs of bullace wild plums
  2. 1.5 lbs granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 pint water
  1. wash the fruit
  2. put all the ingredients into a large preserving pan and bring slowly to a boil
  3. spend ages stirring and fishing out the stones
  4. bring up to the boil and either heat to the jam setting point 105'C (test with a jam thermometer) or test for a set on a cool saucer.
  5. pour into pre-sterilised jars, seal and wait for the bread to toast.
  1. Some suggest cutting the fruit in half to check for bugs and to remove the stones but all the unpalatable bits float to the surface for you to fish out. It took an age to retrieve all the stones but I think on balance it was quicker than cutting out the stones.
  2. I used the thermometer method but the moment it reached setting point it managed to turn the base of my pan to a fruity toffee consistency and I had to quickly remove from the heat.
Earthwoman Allotment Blog http://www.earthwoman.co.uk/



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Port and Sloe Gin Production

Most of the sloes had gone by the time we got our foraging heads on. We had to endure multiple blackthorn puncture wounds in order to get deep enough into the hedgerow to secure some berries that the birds had missed.

I still bear the scars from that day and the experience has left me wanting to squeeze the very marrow from my hard won sloes.

20131222-163812.jpgThey initially went into bottles for the traditional sloe gin but now two months later I am decanting the gin and don’t feel the sloes have reached the end of their useful lives.

Thankfully Permaculture magazine has provided me with the perfect recipe for semi-sozzled sloes. Sloe Port.

I bundled an approximate dollop of sugar and healthy slug of cognac into the drained bottle of gin soaked sloes and topped up with a bottle of bargain basement merlot. In a couple of months I should be rewarded with a very interesting bottle of port.

Either that or a bottle of pink salad vinegar.

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Cavalo Nero Kale Crisps

This is the first year of growing Kale.¬†It’s taken me about 40 years to acquire the taste but I’ve now found the recipe that boosts this brassica into top spot – Cavalo Nero crisps.

I force fed the vegetable loathing teenager a crisp, hoping to recreate the last force feeding photo opportunity, but it totally backfired. She actually loved my crisps and now I have to share them!

Here’s the recipe:

  • Chop leaves into 1 inch strips
  • Cut out the vein out as it helps the leaves dehydrate without burning
  • Toss with olive oil and a bit of sea salt
  • Lay out on the microwave plate and cook for 3-4 mins

Cavolo Nero Kale Crisp Recipe

Kale crips

I opened the microwave after 2 mins to let some of the steam evaporate but its a fairly forgiving process – the leaves dry out well without much fuss.

They crisp up amazingly well and store for an age in a tupperware box. Not that I’ll need to keep them for long, my current problem is trying to keep them away from the teenager.

I’ll be planting an extra row of Kale next year.

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Wild and Fluffy Food

I’ve been inspired by John Lewis-Stempel’s “The Wild Life“, to resurrect my fascination with wild and local foods. Although I haven’t actually foraged much further afield than Borough Market, I am currently preparing a pot of slow cooked, wild, rabbit stew. I might not have shot it myself but I was rather perturbed when I noticed bunny fur remaining on the quartered carcass. De-fluffing the tea brought me a bit too close to the harsh realities of our carnivorous lifestyle but that can only be a good thing.

I’m not sure I’ll be able to persuade any one else to join me for a serving so I’ve taken the precaution of preparing a backup leek and potato soup.

Back to the book, John committed a year of his life to eating wild produce hunted or foraged within the grounds of a derelict farmhouse that he and his wife had bought to renovate. It sounds like a hell-ish challenge. He started in game season so he had plenty of meat to hand but had to grub around for meager offerings of greenery. He managed to poison himself more than once by over-reliance on dubious quality produce.

His ingredients list for February reads:

Pigeon, rabbit, squirrel, dandelion, corn salad, nettles

He was pretty strict about the source of his food and so beyond the stuff he gathered or shot on a daily basis he would have to rely on foods he’d managed to preserve or dry such as nuts, oils, rosehip syrup and copious quantities of alcohol.

I think I was particularly inspired by his ability to keep himself stocked up with daily supplies of alcohol as well as his ability to stomach some of the concoctions brewed. Home brew wine is rank at the best of times and I don’t think oak leaf wine would fare any better than the usual culprits. Dandelion and Burdock beer sounds delightful though and I was impressed to discover you can turn the brew around in about a week.

The book is illustrated with many historic and authentic hedgerow recipes which must have taken some time to unearth. We have Chickweed soup, Stuffed Bistort Leaves, Fat hen pancakes with horseradish and as I’ve seen them lined up next to the rabbits at Borough Market, perhaps this one will do for next weekend:

Herby Squirrel Burgers
Serves 4

1lb/450g lean minced squirrel
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp hedge garlic, chopped
2 tsp equal parts wild thyme and wild chervil
pinch salt

Mix together the egg, meat, herbs and salt in a bowl.
Shape into flattened patties and fry in goose fat. Serve with a green salad.

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Roasted Sweet Beetroot Relish

The plot and the hedgerows are so productive at the moment. It seems about two months too early but the sloes are already plump and juicy. I’ve just had to polish of the last remaining drop of slow gin from last year so that I can re-use the bottles for this year’s vintage. Extraordinarily tasty and potent stuff!

This year we remembered to take carrier bags for a trip around Mitcham Common and have collected enough apples and blackberries for about 30 pies. The trees were almost breaking under the burden of fruit, it’s a shame more people don’t take advantage of the free crops.

Back on the plot we’ve found ourselves overrun with beetroot and I’m in the unusual position of trying to find creative ways to cook and store it.

The Preserves book from the River Cottage Series has a fabulous recipe for sweet beetroot relish. I made slight adjustments, replacing creamed horseradish for the requested home-grown pickled variety and I also cheated with the tomato puree which I couldn’t be bothered to make from scratch. Here is my cheats version:

Sweet Beetroot Relish

  • Servings: loads
  • Time: 1hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


1kg Beetroot – roasted at 180’C
250g Sugar
150ml cider vinegar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
large onion finely chopped
2 tbsp creamed horseradish
4 garlic cloves crushed
1 tbsp tomato puree


Put all the ingredients except for the beetroot into a preserving pan and boil for 5 mins.

Peel and coarsely grate the roasted beetroot. Add this to the mix and cook for another 10 mins.

The juice should be syrupy when ready to transfer to the sterilised jars.

It should last up to a year.

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A Short Foraging Interlude

Last weekend I became a forager, this weekend I quit.

It started at 11am this morning in the pouring rain, we’d just had to vacate our lovely weekend Yurt and the warm safety of the wood burning stove. All for the sake of a haw, or two.

Having shredded our hands on blackthorn and rosehip bushes we returned only slightly damp and deflated, with a bag of hedgerow berries. Now all we had to do was trim them of stalks and rustle up a bottle of ketchup.

It started well enough but 45 minutes in, the bowl was not getting any emptier, I’d reached the point where I couldn’t give a flying wotsit about hawthorn ketchup and Lynn was glaring at me and burping. Apparently the stress of it all had brought on her indigestion.

Having boiled the trimmed berries up in my lovely stock pot I got to while away another hour or so squishing fruity vinegar juice through a colander and then a sieve. I have purple pulp from one end of the kitchen to another and Lynn will get indigestion again when she spots it.

I now have two bottles of ketchup and a lovely book on hedgerow preserves that I will probably never use again – life is too short!

It is a marvellous book actually and here’s the recipe I used for the Hawthorn Ketchup, I had to double up on quantities as Ihad 1.2kg or berries:

Hawthorne Ketchup

  • Servings: 2 bottles
  • Time: 3 hrs
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print


  • 500g trimmed Haws
  • 300ml cider vinegar
  • 300ml water
  • 175g sugar
  • salt and pepper


Boil the haws up with the vinegar and water for about 30 mins, so that the berries go brown and soft.
Allow to cool for a while and then push the pulp through a colander or sieve to remove the stones and skin.

With the juice and pulp back in the pan, add the sugar and heat til it has dissolved. Cook for a further 5 mins, seasoning with salt and pepper. I also added finely chopped chillis at this point and then bottled up.

I just need to work on my labeling now.

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Mother-in-law’s Ruin and the Marrow Jam Off

There’s been some degree of performance anxiety in the house since the great marrow jam disaster of August 09.

We made a minor error of judgement when we told the whole, sorry, sloppy tale to the mother in law. Having triggered a nostalgic memory for jams of old she’s been threatening ever since to pull down her preserving pot and demonstrate culinary majesty over the humble squash.

mrs beeton

Of course I am just too stubborn to roll over and admit that I’m plain useless in the conserve department. Instead of looking forward to a xmas present of beautifully presented preserves, I’ve been hoarding marrows for a future jam off. Not wanting to play my cards too early, they’ve been sitting in the veg rack going musky while I’ve been researching alternative routes to beautifully set jam, courtesy of Mrs Beeton.

Today we got to find out how the mother in law did with her entry into the challenge.

Courgettes are obviously quite popular in her house. By the time she came to prepare them, most had already been roasted and stuffed and the recipe needed to be halved. By the time the peeling, chopping and reckoning had been done it needed to be halved yet again.

Sugar, courgette  and lemon were left to marinade overnight just as I had done a couple of months earlier. The veg was then boiled and potted and left overnight.

Having just disposed of our runny mass of lumpy syrup, Lynn knew to cut straight to the chase with her line of questioning: “Did it set?”

Did it set?
It was like flipping concrete.

Apparently Sheila (said mother in law) couldn’t make an impact on the concrete and unable to remove it from the jar she ended up throwing the whole thing away. The pan took her 2 days to scrub clean and that was after spending the previous 3 days trying to rub away the remains of burnt beetroot.

Maybe now I can relax and consign the flaccid marrow to the compost bin, pride intact.

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