by Anna Craigen
You will now be aware that our very special ‘The Survivor Tree’ rowan at Carrifran has been shortlisted for the Woodland Trust’s Scotland Tree of the Year. We’re very chuffed! You can find out more about the tree and vote using the link above.
We have already published a brief ‘Introduction to rowan trees’ blog to accompany our competition status announcement, but I’m going to add to this and harp on about ‘berries’ again!
Rowan fruit are often called berries, however they are in fact a pome (in the same family as apples) – if you look closely at the small fruit they do look like mini orange apples! No matter where you are in the UK there is likely to be a bountiful supply of fruit to be found. In country lore a bumper crop of berries in autumn means that we are in for a harsh winter, not sure about you, but I notice rowan trees laden with glorious clusters of orange fruit every year – they thrive in our Scottish growing conditions and our winters are variable! From October onwards the rowan (historically known as Rodden (sour) in Scotland) fruit were a staple to forage and preserve as a tart jelly (high in vitamin C, good for stimulating an appetite and best enjoyed with game and possibly strong cheeses).
When I was a kid, we used to make rowan jelly every year, but in spite of being a keen preserver and conserver I’ve never had a go at making it on my own. This is the year…… autumn challenge is ‘go’. During my online research I also discovered a recipe for Rowan Turkish Delight – sounds yum……..this might have to be challenge number 2!
Rowan Jelly Recipe:
There are endless recipes available online, but by the looks of it – a recipe that uses a one-to-one ratio of ingredients, e.g. 1 kg of rowans + 1kg of apples, boiled in 1 litre of water, and for every litre of juice you get from this use 1 kg of castor sugar, should provide the best chances of success. Cooking apples or crab apples are a recommended addition to ensure sufficient pectin is present for setting. As always, use reliable identification resources to make sure of what you are picking and cooking.
After picking – remove all the leaves and stalks and wash the fruit several times until the water is clear/ clean.
Put the rowans, chopped apples (cores included) and water in a large pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 20 – 30 minutes. When the fruit is very soft, take it off the heat and mash it up with a potato masher.
Retain all of the mixture and strain it through a fine sieve, muslin or cloth Leave this to drip through for a good few hours (or overnight) to ensure that you get every last drop.
Sterilise your jars and lids – wash with hot soapy water, rinse well and place (still wet) on a tray in the oven at 160oC for 15 minutes or so.
Add the castor sugar (proportionally 1:1 ratio) to the strained juice and allow to gently dissolve over a low heat. Once dissolved turn the heat up to boil. It should take 10-15 minutes (possibly longer) of vigorous boiling (skim off any scum from the top as you go). My favoured method of testing the setting point is by dripping a small drop of the mixture on a frozen saucer and after a minute or so running your finger through it to see if it wrinkles up.
Carefully ladle (or transfer to a jug and pour) the hot preserve into your sterilised jars and seal with lids whilst it’s still hot.
Let us know how you get on. Enjoy!
The Survivor Rowan at Carrifran Wildwood has been nominated as a contender for Scotland’s Tree of the Year 2020. Help us celebrate 20 years of ecological restoration by voting for our tree.