My dad always said we had gypsy blood… but I think that might just have been a family story which had no root in facts as I’ve not been able to find any Romany or traveller connection… except for a lineage of dark-haired, dark-eyed, olive-skinned ancestors. My dad was a blond Elsden, his brother and cousin were dark, his father was dark, and his father’s mother was too… so who knows. With many of my dad’s stories there was a grain of truth in them somewhere.

I am fascinated by gypsy culture, and the foraging aspect of their lives; I get great satisfaction from using nettles,wild garlic, sloes and other delicious things I’ve picked myself. I came across a recipe for mixed hedgerow berries… sounds good to me!

  • ½1 lb of hedgerow fruit ( ½ lb of blackberries and then another half pound of whatever you can find, sloes, elderberries, rose hips, haws, rowan, crab apples, mirabelles and other wild members of the plum family such as bullaces, which my mother-in-law used to gather as a child but which I’ve never seen…) if the fruit is very pippy you may need to strain it
  • 1 lb sugar
  • 2 lbs of preserving sugar
  • cinnamon sticks if you like cinnamon (I don’t so I miss it out!
  1. wash the fruit, picking out any that aren’t good, wash and chop up the apples, cutting off any bruises but don’t peel or core them
  2. put the fruit in a pan with just a little water and simmer it until it’s really soft become mostly juice
  3. pour through muslin or a jelly bag if you’ve got one and leave it over a large measuring jug or basin to drain for several hours or overnight – don’t press the fruit through the muslin or squeeze the jelly bag because it will make your jelly cloudy
  4. when it has all strained measure the amount of juice you have
  5. put the juice into a preserving pan and for every pint of juice you have add one pound of sugar and let the sugar dissolve over a very low heat
  6. when it is completely dissolved,bring to the boil and boil rapidly until setting point is reached
  7. pour into sterilised jars, cover and label – don’t forget to label – I have and it’s disastrous, I gave someone chilli jam instead of marmalade once!

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