Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Ruby Red Rosehips

Some people decry foraging as dangerous but we have a simple rule that prevents any risk: Only pick or eat things that you recognise and know to be safe. Obvious really and astonishing that any doubters cannot think of that too. However, even taking fundamental precautions cannot save you from getting stung by Nettles, stabbed by thorns or twisting your ankle by stepping down an unseen rabbit hole.
My seasonal collaboration with the Unity brewing Co, helping to create a range of Saison Ales, seems to have led me into dangerous territory, right from the start.

  • For the Spring beer - Primtemps we needed to pick Stinging Nettles!
  • Next we gathered Elderflowers for the Summer brew - Ete (no fear there).
  • For the Autumn we chose Juniper Berries for the Automne Ale and these are always painfully prickly to pick.
  • Finally, to complete our first year together, I am fighting my way with frost bitten fingers, through scythe-like thorns, as I harvest Rosehips or Haws for the Winter beer - Hiver.

At this time of year, Rosehips are the jewels of the hedgerows. They are know for being packed with Vitamin C - ideal for fighting off infection and boosting the immune system, which is just as well because my hands been punctured so many times collecting them that I might soon need a transfusion myself.
Rosehips can also be used for creating syrups, cordials, jellies and even tea. In fact the Dog Rose was apparently so named because people believed that its application could help you to recover from rabies, if bitten by a mad dog. Of course, all bad school children know that the inner contents of these ruby red haws, can also create some of the nastiest itching powder on the planet!
Tradition holds that you should gather Rosehips after the first frost, the same advice is often given for Sloes because the structure of the fruit is broken down by the freezing temperature. By coincidence, I started picking Haws during my lunch hour after the coldest night of the year, my fingers were frozen but they picked easily and smelled fruity, so the Hiver Ale should be super tasty.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Christmas is Coming, Apparently!

Christmas is coming, apparently. I'm sure nobody had noticed, so, hopefully this post will be a timely reminder... Don't forget to make a note on the 25th (December) on your calendar. You might, for instance, want to consider some kind of preparation in advance.
I have been busy creating Sloe Gin; Sloes seemed thin on the ground this year but fortunately I stashed a load in the freezer earlier on. With gin, it occurs to me that we gathered the Juniper Berries during the Summer, so no one can accuse me of not planning in advance.
I harvested some Green Walnuts in June and this was the beginning of my Vin de Noix, which is now bottled and ready for those cold Winter nights. I added some spices this year to make it even more seasonal.
During July my son and I gathered a bucket-load of Elderberries and then kickstarted my Elderberry wine. This is the perfect archaic, alchemical brew for spicing up into Mulled wine for friends and festive gatherings. Mulled Cider also always goes down well at parties, and this has all now been safely bottled and stored.
My favourite Chunky Pear & Walnut Chutney makes a nice home-made gift and my wife has now added a batch of Sweet Chilli Jam to our cupboard bound cannon.
All that remains now is to forage some Mistletoe and create some Xmas door wreaths. Hopefully the family will be kept so busy making and distributing things that they won't even notice that their are no presents under the tree yet... Actually, that reminds me, we need a Christmas tree!