One thing leads to another. Inevitability. So, when I checked the Kilruddery website, immediately after my August visit to the house and garden, I discovered that a berry foraging and jam making session led by Ed Hick was scheduled for Sunday the 21st September. And as I thought it was the type of event I might enjoy I promptly booked a place.
The berry foraging and jam making event started at 11am last Sunday. Sadly when I woke up that morning the sky looked dubiously grey but thankfully by the time I arrived at Kilruddery the weather had changed and it was cheeringly warm, sunlight filtered through the ancient trees, and gossamer clouds danced across a blue sky. In short: perfect berry picking weather.
About twenty people attended the event. We started off in the old grain store, one of Kilrudderry’s many quirky and interesting outbuildings, where Ed Hick showed us examples of what he wanted us to collect namely: blackberries, hawthorn berries, elderflower berries and rosehips. He then sent us out to roam the grounds and we spent a fruitful (pun intended) hour filling our containers with hand-staining fruits and trying to avoid clumps of stinging nettles.
When we returned, laden down with fruits, to the grain store we were offered a reviving cup of tea or coffee. Then Ed started to make the communal jam from our offerings. He began by putting some water, the rosehips, the hawthorn berries, and some unpeeled and un-cored chopped up cooking apples into a saucepan. The mix was simmered until the apples began to disintegrate. Ed strained this concoction and the resultant syrup was later added to the jam. He said the syrup would add depth of flavour.
The jam making proper began when the blackberries and elderflower berries together with an equal quantity of sugar were placed in a saucepan and brought to the boil. Interestingly Ed used a mix of sugars: jam sugar, muscovado sugar and a Mexican sugar with an unpronounceable name, apparently using a mix of different types of sugars adds extra layers of flavour. The aforementioned syrup was added to the jam when it began to boil. Once the mix had come to the right temperature (this was checked with a jam thermometer) Ed bottled it straight away.