Hedgerow jelly is a glorious ensemble of whatever edible fruits you can forage. It’s a relatively fuss free method of preserving autumn’s bounty in a most delicious and attractive way.
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Hips, haws, berries and other wild fruits abound in late summer and early autumn. Head out to your local park, byways or woodland and see what you can gather. Depending on what I find, I might make a batch of elderberry rob or rosehip syrup. Sometimes it might be blackberry and apple crumble or blackberry galette. And sometimes I make hedgerow jelly.
Hedgerow jelly is never the same twice. It all depends on what fruit you find and the varying quantities you use. This year I found mostly blackberries, but also hawthorn berries (haws), rosehips (hips) and sloes.
Whatever you gather, you’ll need to match it with an equal quantity of crab apples, windfall apples or cooking apples. Apples are high in pectin and you need pectin to get a good set.
Homemade jelly is really easy to make. It just takes a bit of time and patience. First off, give your berries, hips and haws a good rinse in water and pick out anything that looks bad. I had a kilo of fruit in total.
The next stage involves simmering everything in water until the fruit is reduced to a pulp. Then strain it. See the section below for tips on how to do this. It will take a good few hours. Discard any pulp left behind. I chuck ours on the compost heap.
Measure the juice and for every 600 ml juice add 450g golden granulated sugar. I got 700 ml and added 500g sugar. It’s important to use a preserving pan* or very large saucepan. Here’s why: when the juice boils, it also rises rapidly and you really don’t want a sticky toffee like glue all over your stove.
Dissolve the sugar over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally. Then bring to a rapid boil and keep it there until setting point is reached. It took me about fifteen minutes.
As soon as the jelly has set, remove from the heat and pour into hot sterilised jars. See my post on how to sterilise glass jars and lids for more information on this. A jam funnel* makes the process of pouring a lot easier. Seal and allow to cool.
Label your jars and place, with a sense of satisfaction, in your store cupboard or pantry. Alternatively, delight your friends and family with jars of nature’s abundance. They’ll keep well if unopened for up to a year. Once opened, they’re probably best stored in the fridge.
The best way to establish setting point is to have a couple of cold saucers at the ready. I keep them in the freezer and alternate them as I test. After about ten minutes of boiling, start testing. Drop half a teaspoon of hot juice onto one of the cold plates and leave for thirty seconds. Then push it with a teaspoon or your finger. If it starts to wrinkle, it’s ready. If it doesn’t carry on boiling until it does.
I usually have to test six to eight times before the jelly actually sets. If you think it might be ready, remove the juice from the heat while you test. If it’s not ready, just bring it to the boil again.
How To Strain Jelly
You don’t really need any fancy pants equipment to make hedgerow jelly. A jelly bag* makes things a little easier, but I just tip the contents into a piece of clean muslin*. You can also use a double thickness of cheesecloth or an old cotton pillowcase.
Dedicated jelly stands are also a thing. But you don’t need to rush out and buy one. You just need something you can hang your jelly bag on which allows enough room for a bowl to sit underneath. If push comes to shove you can just leave your bag sitting in the sieve or colander, but you’ll extract more juice and get a better result if you can find somewhere to hang it.
This is How I Strain Juice
I line a sieve or colander with the muslin, place the sieve over a large bowl then tip in the fruit pulp. Then I gather up the corners and tie them together with a strong elastic band. A piece of string is fine, but it’s hard to do when you’re juggling a dripping bag. Using the elastic band, I hang the bag over a tap or cupboard handle with the bowl underneath to catch the juice.
I tend to do this in the evening, so that the pulp can strain overnight. It really needs a good eight hours or more to extract as much as possible. Then I can get on with making the jelly first thing in the morning.
Don’t Squeeze The Jelly Bag
Jelly is the jewel in the crown of the preserving world. A good homemade jelly is beautifully clear, almost reminiscent of stained glass. If you squeeze the bag, your jelly will be cloudy and you’ll lose that glorious jewel like appearance. So do be patient and allow your foraged gatherings to drip at their own pace.
What Do you Eat Hedgerow Jelly With?
Hedgerow jelly is so delicious, it’s really good just spread on bread or crackers as seen above. You can really get the flavours this way. But this past week, we’ve been enjoying it on Cornish saffron buns.
Really you can use it in any way you’d use jam. However, as it’s so smooth, why not jazz up your sauce or gravy with it. This is a classic use for redcurrant jelly after all. It could work well with cheese too, but it’s quite sweet so you might prefer something a bit less sugary with your cheese. I know I do.
Fruit To Use in Hedgerow Jelly
The wonderful thing about hedgerow jelly is that you can use whatever edible berries, hips and haws you can find whilst out foraging. Most of them are full of seeds and bits that makes them tricky to prepare. But jelly bypasses any awkward extraction and is easy to make. As long as you have a good proportion of pectin rich fruit, pretty much any combination goes.
Just make sure you have a good field guide and know what you’re picking. Some fruits found in the hedges are highly toxic. Some of these mentioned below are toxic if eaten raw, but safe once cooked.
The following fruits are all suitable for the making of hedgerow jelly. And they’re all available at more or less the same time in late summer or early autumn.
Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris)
Crab apples are high in pectin and are thus one of the best fruits to add to your hedgerow jelly. Pectin is needed to help the jelly to set. So if you can’t find any crab apples, use windfalls or cooking apples instead. You need to match the rest of your foraged fruit with apples. Use the peel, cores and pips as these all contain high amounts of pectin. Just make sure you cut out any bad bits.
Flavour is another good reason to find crab apples if you can. You can generally find them in September and October.
Blackberry (Rubis fruticosus)
Blackberries, or brambles as they are often called, are one of the easiest fruit to find and recognise, so it’s no surprise they’re a firm favourite. They also get a number of bonus points for flavour. And this despite their ability to cover you with scratches, prickles and purple stains.
This year I was picking blackberries in July, but that’s unusual. They really come into their own in August and September.
Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
Hawthorn trees and bushes are widespread throughout the UK. They’re commonly used as hedging plants, so are one of the easiest fruits to find. The berries, known as haws, are red and generally available from August to December.
You can eat haws raw or cooked, though they’re a bit fiddly to eat raw as they have a large hard pip in the middle. They’re loaded with antioxidants and are particularly good for heart health. But beware thorns when picking. The clue is in the name.
Damson (Prunus domestica)
Damsons are wild plums often found in hedgerows and woodland edges. They’re quite tart and not particularly pleasant eaten raw. But they make a wonderful jam and are great flavour boosters for hedgerow jelly.
In fact damsons are full of pectin, so if you have a good proportion of these in your jelly, you won’t need as many crab apples. They’re in season from September to October.
Bullace – (Prunus domestica)
Bullace is another form of wild plum, similar to damson, but smaller. The seeds contain toxins, cyanogenic glycosides and hydrogen cyanide, so please don’t eat them. Fortunately, these are removed in the jelly making process.
They grow in woods, hedgerows and gardens and are in season from October to November.
Sloe (Prunus spinosa)
Sloes are in the same genus as damsons and bullaces but are much smaller. They grow on blackthorn, which are scrubby trees and bushes found pretty much everywhere. Beware though, as the name suggests they’re covered in vicious thorns, so do be careful when picking.
Sloes are not poisonous if eaten raw, but they taste horrid. They’re both astringent and bitter and make your mouth pucker up something awful. They do make fabulous sloe gin though.
Traditionally you want to pick sloes after the first frosts as this is meant to make them more palatable. But they’re actually in season from late August through to December and are absolutely fine for jelly making if you pick them earlier in the season.
Raspberry (Rubus idaeus)
If you’re lucky, you might find wild raspberries. They’re generally in season from July to late August. I remember staying with friends who lived on Exmoor a very long time ago. They knew of a patch of wild raspberries and we ended up picking masses of them. How very delicious they were too.
I’ve only ever come across the odd cane or two since then, but even a handful of raspberries make a wonderful flavour addition to hedgerow jelly.
Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
Also known as the mountain ash as its leaves look similar to the ash tree, rowan can be found all over the British Isles. It grows naturally in hilly areas, but is also a much loved tree for suburban planting. It has bright red berries that are in season from August to November. They’re quite tart and bitter and should not be eaten raw.
In fact the berries are poisonous unless cooked. They contain the toxin parasorbic acid which transforms into non toxic sorbic acid when you cook them.
Elderberry (Sambucus nigra)
Elder is another tree that grows pretty much everywhere in the UK. You can find them growing in hedgerows, gardens and disturbed ground. Elderflower champagne is a wonderful thing to make early in the season, but the berries ripen in August and September.
They have a lovely flavour, but should not be eaten raw as they are mildly poisonous. Do also make sure the berries are properly ripe before you pick them. If they’re not black, don’t include them in this hedgerow jelly.
Rosehip (Rosa arvensis & Rosa canina)
Most roses will form rosehips and you can use any of them to make hedgerow jelly. But those found on the dog rose and field rose are the ones you’re most likely to come across whilst out foraging. They’re in season from August to December, though they’re quite popular with the birds, so might not last that long.
Roses are thorny, so do take care when picking rosehips. The hips contain fine hairs which are a serious irritant, so it’s best not to try eating them as they are. The jelly making process removes the hairs along with the seeds, so you can enjoy your hedgerow jelly with full confidence.
Rosehips contain high levels of antioxidants along with vitamin C. So if you can find some to add to your jelly, so much the better.
Other Jams & Jellies You Might Like
- Chocolate blackberry jam
- Easy homemade strawberry jam (with no added pectin)
- Fig & apple pomegranate jam
- Quince jelly
- Vanilla apricot jam
Keep in Touch
Thanks for visiting Tin and Thyme. If you have a go at making hedgerow jelly, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below. Have you any top tips? Do share photos on social media too and use the hashtag #tinandthyme, so I can spot them.
Hedgerow Jelly. PIN IT.
Hedgerow Jelly – The Recipe
- 500 g foraged hips, haws & berries I had blackberries, hawthorn berries, sloes and rosehips
- 500 g crab apples, windfalls or cooking apples
- 500 g golden granulated sugar
- Rinse your foraged fruit in water. Chop any large fruit such as apples into rough pieces, ensuring any bad bits are thrown into the compost bin. There's no need to peel or core the fruit, in fact you want as much of it as you can get.
- Throw everything into a large lidded pot. Add just enough water to cover the fruit. Bring to the boil with the lid on and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the fruit is mushy.
- Set a jelly bag or muslin lined sieve over a large glass or pottery bowl. Pour in the contents of the pan.
- Once most of the juice has drained out, suspend the jelly bag or tied muslin cloth above the bowl and allow it to drip overnight or for a good few hours. You want to extract as much as the juice as possible, but don't be tempted to squeeze the bag or your jelly will end up cloudy.
- The next day, sterilise your jars and throw the leftover pulp into the compost bin.
- Measure out the juice and for every 600ml (1 pint) add 450g sugar. I got 700ml and used 500g sugar.
- In a large pan, heat the mixture gently until the sugar has dissolved. Then bring it to the boil. Remove any scum as it cooks.
- Continue to boil until the jelly reaches setting point. This could be anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. Mine set after 15 minutes. To test setting point, place half a teaspoon of juice onto a cold saucer or plate and push it with a teaspoon or your finger. If it wrinkles it's set, if it doesn't carry on boiling.
- Turn the heat off and leave a couple of minutes for the bubbles to subside.
- Pour or ladle into the hot sterilised jars. Cover with wax discs, seal and label.
I’m sharing this recipe for hedgerow jelly with Recipes Made Easy for #CookBlogShare.
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