Winter Foraging
Posted November 17, 2023

Winter foraging around Nether Farm

Winter foraging in the UK may present it’s challenges, but it also offers a unique opportunity to explore the resilient treasures of nature.

foraging around ashbourne derbyshire

Walk, explore, immerse, gather…

Pull on your warm socks and boots and head out around the farm or further afield. See what the landscape at Nether Farm, around Ashbourne and Dovedale has to offer. Look for those last bursts of natures colour and discover the wild foods that are still in abundance, and which can sustain and nourish us.

Winter Foraging near Ashbourne, Ilam, Derbyshire

What can we forage in November and December?

Sweet chestnuts are wonderful roasted on an open fire as the song tells us, you could try on your very own fire pit during your stay.
Gather a lovely crop of hazelnuts for your Christmas table or the last of the rosehips to make a delightful antioxidant tea, syrup or jelly.
Even pine needles can be used to make a tea rich in Vitamin C, A and Beta Carotene, making it a highly effective cold remedy.
Delicious Bullace, Damson and Sloe are all UK native plum varieties. Use them to make jams and preserves or fruit wines and liqueurs.
Below is a great classic sloe gin recipe and another unusual use for the sloes we high right here on the farm…

Foraging for Rosehips

Ideas for your yield

Rose Hip Jelly

Rose hips can be cooked to extract the juice for jams and jellies. The juice can be strained and used immediately or frozen for up to a year. When making jelly, rose hips are often mixed with other fruits, such as apples or cranberries.

  • Remove the blossom remnants and stems from the rose hips to extract the juice to make jelly.
  • Wash the hips in cool water.
  • Add the rose hips to a pan, cover with water, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Cool, then strain through a cheesecloth into a container. One pound of rose hips equals about 2 cups of juice.

Classic Sloe Gin

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of gin (or whisky or vodka etc.)
  • 500g sloes
  • 250g white caster sugar

Method

1. Pop the sloes in the freezer overnight and allow to thaw. This will allow the flavour of the sloes to seep out.
2. Next, grab a sterilised jar or bottle and add a layer of sloes. Top with a layer of sugar and repeat.
3. Drench the fruit and sugar in the spirit of your choice.
4. Store for three months or more – the flavour will improve with age.
5. Once ready, either leave the fruits in the spirit or decant the liquid into another bottle.
6. Drink neat as a liqueur or use as you would a normal dry gin, either with tonic water or another mixer, or in any number of cocktails

Sloe Gin make from foraging

Sloe Olives Recipe

Method

1. Rinse green or ripe sloes (or a mix of the two) in clean water and pat dry.
2. Score a groove into each sloe, without piercing the pit/seed.
3. Submerge the fruits in a brine solution of 1 part salt to 10 parts water. This is best done in a Kilner-type jar.
4. After a week, rinse the sloes and resubmerge in brine.
5. Continue to change the water once a week. Check for any mould build-up on the fruits and discard any that go mouldy. Mould floating on top of the water is fine, as long as you clean and resubmerge in fresh brine. During each check, also taste for astringency. Once this has gone, the sloes are ready to eat.
6. Rinse the brined sloes, pat dry and put them in a sterilised jar.
7. Optional: Cover the sloes with olive oil and wait for a further month or so. The fruits will plump up and take on a smooth, olive-like quality.

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