Recipe: hedgerow fruit leather
PUBLISHED: 16:48 16 December 2019 | UPDATED: 11:45 17 December 2019
Bushcraft expert Jonny Crockett shows us how to make the ultimate fast food – perfect for shoot days and a great way to make good use of nature’s free bounty
In recent articles in the magazine we've delved into the original bushcraft expert's life: Ötzi the Iceman, who was trying to cross an alpine pass in the summer. He ate ibex meat and plantain, together with several grass seeds. If he had been travelling at this time of year, perhaps his diet would have been different. At this time of year, we can make the ultimate travelling food: fruit leather.
This snack is very similar to beef jerky, and made using the fruit of hawthorn, an ancient species that can be found across Europe. The fruits, called haws, make a superb sweet-tasting fruit leather. Here is how you do it:
Firstly, you need to identify the correct tree. Look for a small tree with crimson berries.
The leaves are small and heavily lobed, and there will be very sharp thorns. The berries should have a small crown on the other end from the stalk with a single small stone in the centre.
Once you've correctly identified your tree, you'll need to collect the berries. They are very simple to collect, just put aside an hour or so and you'll have plenty. I've collected around a kilogram of them in my basket.
The next step is a little labour-intensive, but worth doing. Pick all the stalks off the berries. A little tip here is to roll them all down the table - the ones that roll the furthest will not have stalks on them and they can be put straight into a pot, while the remainder can have the stalks removed and then added.
Now add a bit of water. You should just be able to see the water, but don't cover the berries completely. Place over a fire or on the stove and simmer for 10 minutes.
The crimson colour will start to turn more orange. Have a little taste now and if you want to add a bit of honey or sugar then now is the time. Once it has simmered for 10 minutes, crush the berries with the back of a spoon, or if you are in your kitchen doing this, use a potato masher.
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In preparation, place some greaseproof paper or a baking tray on a flat surface ready to catch the pulp. Now put the pulp into a sieve and it's time to get your hands dirty. With your fingers, swipe across the pulp, forcing the liquid through the sieve.
The larger parts of the skin and the stones should be the only residue left in the sieve. The liquid that passes through the sieve will either fall onto the greaseproof paper or will stick to the outside of the sieve. Scrape it off with a knife and form it into a slab on the paper. Ideally, it should be around 1cm thick.
In Ötzi the Iceman's case, he could have left it in the bright Italian sunshine, but in the UK we need to leave it somewhere warm, preferably with a draught. If you are doing this at home, put it in the oven on the lowest possible temperature. It may even be worth leaving the door slightly open. It is ready when it is ready, but three hours should do it.
You'll know when it is ready when you lift the corner of the greaseproof paper and you can peel the fruit leather off it.
Now you can peel the paper off completely and slice it or roll it. It's ready to go and should look like a red/brown leather. Stored in an airtight container, it should last for 12 months.
If you are used to making sloe gin after the first frost, then bear in mind this snack must be done before the first frost. It has a high sugar content, is easy to make and is great snacking material for cold days on the shoot or on the hill. Bon appetit!