Rowan jelly – a foragers’ favourite (well, mine anyway!)

1 Oct

One of my favourite additions to meat (roast or cold) is a good jelly. I’ll settle for a redcurrant, but my absolute favourite is rowan. You can’t buy rowan jelly; or at least I’ve never seen it for sale. If you know where to buy it please enlighten me! The flavour is delicious – sweet with a wonderful tart tang. It’s not a jelly for toast, but as an accompaniment to savoury dishes.


The rowan tree is otherwise known as the mountain ash tree, although it’s not related to the common ash trees at all. In the autumn the trees are covered in clusters of bright orange/red berries which are a great source of vitamin c.

I do have a rowan in my garden but I covet that of a neighbour as the berries are always brighter, juicier and more plentiful, and, importantly, lower to the ground. I’m keen to avoid tree climbing if I can! I have an agreement with friends and neighbours about the fruit in my orchard: they can have as much as they like, but they have to provide me with a sample of what they make with it. Janet and Stephen can expect a delivery of rowan jelly later this week.

To harvest  the clusters of stunning red berries I always use kitchen scissors as it causes less damage to the tree than wrenching off the fruit.

Once you’ve collected your berries you will need to separate them from the stalks. This is a really easy job, but there’s no shortcut! Use your hands to pull them away from the stalks – you don’t have to be too precise though – you’ll be straining the mix later.

Once you have 4lbs you’re ready to go. By this point your hands will be black from the juice and the dust from them, so give the berries a rinse if you wish.

Pop them into a jam pan and almost cover with water – not completely though as they’ll mush down and you want a reasonably concentrated juice at the end. Add a few handfuls of chopped cooking apples, or crab apples (I used about 1.5lbs). Leave the cores and skins as the pectin from them will help the jelly to set.


Turn on the heat and let the fruit bubble for about 45 mins or so until the berries and apples are cooked down to a mush.

Cool and then strain through a jelly bag. I do this overnight – it reduces the temptation to squeeze out the juice which makes it cloudy. One of the joys of this jelly is the beautiful clear jewel colour of it – it’s like a citrine.

Measure out the resulting juice and then add 1lb sugar for every pint of juice. Bubble away as you would any other jam and when it reaches setting point it’s ready to go!


I’m making a lot this year! Friends and family – this is what you’re getting in your Christmas stockings!



One Response to “Rowan jelly – a foragers’ favourite (well, mine anyway!)”

  1. keepupwithjones October 1, 2013 at 4:04 pm #

    You might have spotted the missing link about setting point. Here’s a link to the BBC that tells you all you need to know!

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