Is it Rowanberry or Rowan Berry? Either Way, they make a gorgeous jelly, which is quite possibly my favorite of the Autumnal preserves that I make.
I made my first batch about three years ago, but there were so few berries left on the tree in the front garden, that it only made three 227g jars. Each year since, I managed to make a bit more, but I’ve always had to mix the red and yellow berries that our tree produces, to make the weight up. This year was different though, as the tree, or trees, as there must be two coming out the ground at the same point to get two different berries, was absolutely dripping with them. I popped out one evening and picked in the region of 5Kg, without having to get my ladder out to reach those higher up in the tree. This meant that for the first time, I had enough berries to make a batch solely from each of the red and yellow berries.
As I’d picked more yellow berries than red, I decided to start off with a batch of those. I was pleasantly surprised to find it passing the crinkle test at the first time of asking; it felt like I’d only been boiling it for about five minutes. So obviously this meant it was slightly overdone and set pretty hard; not quite as hard as the first ever batch I ever made, but hard enough to not really wobble. I wasn’t overly impressed with the colour either, I thought it wasn’t quite what it should have been.
The next two batches, one of just red berries and another of just yellow berries, passed without incident. Both took about the expected time to reach setting point and had a nice wobble about them. The colour of each wasn’t bad either, especially when held up to a bright light; really showing off the colour of the berries used nicely. I’m quite looking forward to trying them all, to see what the difference is, if any, between the red and yellow berries.
Last year was the first time I’ve ever made preserves. My favourite was a batch of Rowan Berry Jelly, even though I only managed to collect enough rowan berries to make two and a half small jars. I’d not even realised you could use rowan berries for anything, so by the time I got round to collecting what was left from the tree in the front garden, there weren’t many left. I wasn’t about to let the same thing happen this year, so I kept a careful eye on them and even managed to find a rowan tree near Baits Bite Lock, just outside Milton, where I could get an extra few in needed.
As the crab apples weren’t ready at the same time as the rowan berries this year, I stashed a kilo of them in my mother-in-law’s deep freeze. The crab apples on the tree in the back garden took their time to ripen, but when they did, it was time to crack on a get some jelly made. This was to be my last batch of the season, I’d made some elderberry jelly and some bramble jelly in the week or so before, with varying levels of success, so knew exactly what to look for when it came to ensuring it had reached setting point.
I decided to check on the reliability of our sugar thermometer with the digital thermometer I use for homebrewing, it seems accurate enough, which is good to know. Once I’d managed to get the temperature up to setting point, I started checking it with the crinkle test. Using the knowledge I’d gained from the bramble jelly, I knew it was ready the moment I saw the merest hint of a crinkle next to my finger. The bottling went fine this time, as I used a chopping board to hold the hot jars, rather than the flimsy place mat thing.
I’m really pleased with this batch, I got plenty of jars and while I think it could be slightly clearer, it’s much clearer than last years batch was. It’s also a lot less like wallpaper paste than last years batch too, which is solely down to my new knowledge about the crinkle test and thus not over boiling it. The thing I’m most happy with though, is the colour, is so vibrant and punchy, I keep holding jars up to the light just so I can look at it. I’m really looking forward to eating my way through this batch over the winter…
I was making bramble jelly the other night when I had a bit of a mishap. While screwing on one of the jar lids, I managed to knock the jar over and spilt the boiling hot contents all over the kitchen worktop and down the front of the cupboards. Rather than stick the hot jars, they’d just come out of the oven where they’d been sterilising, on the nice new wooden work surface, I put them on a cheap plastic IKEA Xmas place mat that my mother-in-law had given the kids last year. I should really have used something better, as it’s not made from temperature stable plastic, so went a bit floppy and slidy. I suppose that making jelly late a night, while very tired, does mean you’re more liable to make the odd mistake or two…