Sunday, 26 September 2010

Foraging #Fail

Waaaah! What a day (that's sarcasm by the way). We were over in Great Yarmouth visiting the in-laws and decided to take the opportunity to harvest some Sea BuckThorn berries. Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall made Sea BuckThorn Jelly on River Cottage a couple of years ago. Last year we realised that the bushes with silver grey leaves and vivid orange berries which are numerous in the Great Yarmouth area were your actual Sea BuckThorn. Sadly we were a bit too late and the berries had started to shrivel so I added it to my 2010 wish list and patiently waited a whole year to try again.

This afternoon we dutifully pitched up, ice cream tubs in hand, and though the bushes weren't quite as laden with berries as they were last year, there was still a respectable amount so we thought 500g would be a cinch.

Well you know what thought did (as my old Nan used to say)

Picking them is devilish tricky. Hugh warns about the thorns but we didn't find them too much of a problem, the real issue is the fragile nature of the tiny, blackcurrant sized berries. They don't hang in long stalked clusters like elderberries, each little orange orb has a short stalk which seems to be attached directly to a main branch and the slightest pressure causes them to explode at an astonishing velocity. One I popped at waist height splattered orange juice right over my shoulder.

It became obvious very early on that this was going to be a lengthy task and we quickly asked ourselves if it was worth the effort. We tasted a few berries and the refreshing, fragrant, astringent taste was intriguing enough for us to press on.

I'd guess at least 25% of those we picked popped on contact. Very slow, careful, gentle picking for about an hour barely yielded 100g of berries. When the juice had smothered our hands and found it's stinging way into every tiny break in the skin we'd previously failed to notice, we gave up. Regular readers will know I expect to weigh my hauls in stones, not grams, so I was not terribly pleased. Still, I hoped we had enough for me to make a small, half pint jelly.

Back home I got to work. I simmered the berries in a little water til they were soft and then passed them through a sieve, added Cointreau and sugar to counterbalance the astringency and tasted.


Rather disappointing if the truth be told. I was rather heavy handed with both the alcohol and the sugar and the resulting juice seemed to taste merely of sweet oranges. I pressed on with the gelatine and made 2 small glass bowls of fairly insipid orange jelly.

So that was worth the effort then.

Still, at least a took a few nice photos for the blog while we were out there, let's take a look. Nope, that's one's blurred (don't you just hate it when they look fine on the camera screen but the unforgiving laptop screen shows up every shake) and that one, and that one. In fact, the only usable one is the one you're looking at up there.

So that's it, I think I should call it a day before I cock something else up. Time to snuggle up on the sofa with a nice glass of red to sooth my rattled culinary ego. Except there's none in the house and now it's 5.20pm on Sunday which, in this part of Norfolk, means that all alcohol buying options shut over an hour ago.


# Update. The jelly was actually really good in the end!


  1. What adventures you do have! You deserved that glass of red, just for giving it all a go. But, yes, been in that situation - nothing doing after 4pm on a Sunday round here!

  2. Well, I thought I'd make a rare post. Tracey and I tried the jelly last night and OMG! It was delicious. A really complex taste, which slowly progressed over a period of maybe three seconds. I would even go so far as to say it was edging into Wonka's Everlasting Gobstopper territory. And so rich. We only had a small tumbler glass full, but that was plenty. It could have easily made 4 helpings rather than 2.

  3. Oh look, my husband turned up! Check out the nutter post : )

  4. Have you seen the Ray Mears' episode where he gathers sea buckthorn (Ray Mears' Wild Food was it?)? It also took him forever to gather some, IIRC, but he used a kind of stripping motion down the length of a branch and squashed berries be hanged. Might be worth trying to hunt out the clip for tips?

  5. Oh, interesting. I'd forgotten that but now you've mentioned it I can vaguely remember. I may try and track it down.

  6. glad the jelly turned out good in the this jelly as in dessert jelly??? I have always wanted to try making some but have no idea of recipe or method...could you let me know???

  7. Yes, it's a dessert jelly, they're really easy. You don't need a recipe as such, if you buy a pack of leaf gelatine there are instructions on the pack. Then all you need is a pint of fruit juice.

    Our current favourite is orange and mango, Innocent smoothies are quite nice to use too. You snip up 4 gelatine leaves and soak them in a few spoonfuls of your juice. Leave for 10 mins. Then add a bit more juice (about half a cup full) and heat very gently in a saucepan, if it gets too hot at this stage it won't set.

    Mix the heated juice with the remainder of your pint of juice, pour into a mould or bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

    Jamie Oliver had a recipe made from fresh tangerine juice which was lovely, it's on here somewhere.