The cliff tops of Cromer are jewelled with sea buckthorn berries at the moment. My sister and I have been talking about foraging for some for years and never got round to it, so today we set some time aside to pick some and made some delicious sea buckthorn berry jelly.
Before I tell you how we made the jelly, you must come for a virtual walk up the cliffs with us…
We’ll walk up from the town with the view of the pier behind us, stop to watch the crab boats coming in for a little while and although there are sea buckthorn bushes here I know there are more bushes laden with berries further up the cliff.
We’ll walk right up to the top of the cliff through the spiky gorse bushes, sit on a bench for a few minutes to catch our breath and admire the view before we start our forage…
Now, we’ve found our bushes and the picking begins!
We’d heard about the thorns of the sea buckthorn bushes but luckily they seemed to just be soft floppy thorns so picking wasn’t easy but not painful other than the odd acidic squirt in the eye. We took gardening gloves with us and found a good system of one of us holding the bag while the other ‘milked’ the branches of berries. Some berries burst, but we collected the juice in our bag too. Next time we’ll take hand wipes and kitchen roll to wipe our sticky hands and faces.
Back at home, we sorted through the berries to get rid of bugs and leaves. At this point the berries didn’t smell that great – a bit like sickly, sour wine. We mixed with 0.5 times the amount of water to weight of berries (eg. 1kg berries to 500ml water).
We gently brought the berries to the boil and simmered away for around 20 minutes.
We strained the berries through a sieve.
We decided to strain through a muslin cloth too as there seemed to be some residue that had come off the skins of the berries. Stirring and encouraging the juice through the muslin quickened the process!
We measured the strained juice and added 1.5 times the amount of sugar (eg 500ml juice to 750gm sugar). Then boiled vigorously for about 10 minutes then reduced heat to a rolling boil, stirring every so often to avoid the jelly catching on the bottom of the pan.
I put a plate in the freezer to chill and after a few minutes of further boiling spooned a small amount on the plate to check the set. After just a couple of minutes more it cooled to a well set jelly so we removed from the heat. We then skimmed off the scummy bits on top which left a beautifully clear jelly, then carefully funnelled into freshly sterilised jars.
Et voila! From 500ml of sea buckthorn juice (I froze 400ml to save for a special sorbet) we created these three beautiful jars of sea buckthorn berry jelly. Describing the taste is quite difficult but it is citrusy, slightly tropical and tastes somewhat like fruit salad sweets, or those red lollies you get at Little Chef at the end of your meal with a slight sherbetty tang.