I'm new to foraging, very new.. In fact I'm still a little bit of a worry wort about the whole, pick something off a random bush and eat it thing. Blame it on my childhood growing up in the tropics, where there were quite a few things you really didn't want to touch or eat, especially in the rainforest. This season though, I'm shaking off my childhood fears of 'wait a while' and 'stinging trees' and I'm starting to find the whole foraging experience wonderfully exciting. I feel like a kid on a treasure hunt!
Now I must begin by saying we didn't go far to forage our Lilly Pillys, in fact, to my surprise, we had a whole hedge of them growing in our front yard. Talk about a win! After Ben reassured me for the twentieth time that these beautifully hued pink berries, were in fact, not only edible but could be made into sparking wine and jam, I couldn't resist giving it a go. So off we went, with our little basket, for our first family foraging adventure.
Making jam has always intrigued me. It was one of those things I imagined was incredibly complex and took a great deal of patience and skill to master. And although it can be a bit fiddly and takes a little while, I'm beginning to realise, once you gain a bit of confidence and just play practice, the world is your jam jar. There's just something so romantic about preserving the season. I found this River Cottage Bites episode so helpful for preserving tips & tricks.
For my Lilly Pilly jam I wanted to keep things as simple as possible, so I found a basic strawberry jam recipe, crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. And you know what.. it worked! There's no waiting, minimal boiling and beautiful, tasty results.
Easy Lilly Pilly Jam
(this recipe made two medium jars and one little jar)
500g of Lilly Pillys*
500g of jam setting sugar
3 tbsp of water
A knob of butter
Wash and sterilise your jars. I find the oven method is nice and easy and works really well.
Pop a saucer into the freezer. This will be for testing your jam.
Wash and de-seed the Lilly Pillys and discard the bad ones. They are really easy to open using your fingers.
Crush the Lilly Pillys in a large bowl using a potato masher. As the berry doesn't contain a great deal of juice, I added a few of tablespoons of water to help crush the berries and develop a juice (add a little more water if need be).
Once the Lilly Pillys are crushed add them to a large pot along with the jam setting sugar.
Heat the mixture on a low heat until the sugar dissolves.
Add a knob of butter and then increase the heat and bring to a full rolling boil. (You can tell when you achieve a true rolling boil when the boil can not be stirred down)
Boil for four minutes (I like to set a timer). You can gently stir the mixture, maintaining a clockwise motion. Be sure not to walk away at this point.
After four minutes, retrieve your saucer from the freezer and test to see the jam has set. Do this by adding a small amount to the saucer and pushing it with your finger. The jam should wrinkle and look like jam rather than syrup.
Continue the boil until this consistency has been achieved (It shouldn't take much longer and the jam will set more in the jars).
Take the jam off the heat and remove your jars from the oven.
Ladle the jam into a jug, then carefully pour into the sterilised jars and screw the lids on tightly.
Enjoy on fresh homemade bread or scones. Pot of tea essential!
*Of course if you don't have a random Lilly Pilly hedge in your garden you can replace them with any type of berry you like. Finally quantities may vary. Just be sure to use equal parts jam setting sugar to fruit.
What have you been foraging and preserving lately?
Much Love & Light
PS. More from our Grow & Gather series here..