Mountain Ash Berry Jelly
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In the fall, the time of bountiful fruit and vegetables, we begin the garden harvest of cucumbers, zucchinis, beans, and tomatoes great for canning. Strawberries, currants, and raspberries for jams and jellies. And from the land, there are such delights as blueberries, highbush cranberries, and mountain ash berries.

Now, I’ve never managed to make jelly or jam out of blueberries as they so readily make their way into pies or the freezer, and the highbush cranberry jelly is definitely an acquired taste because its odour can be offensive to some. But the mountain ash berries, which are inedible on their own, are a pure delight as a jelly.

Their European counterparts are the rowan berries. The rowan tree itself if thought to be sacred and have protective qualities. Because of this, in Wales, the Celts have traditionally planted the tree in churchyards.

There is a top secret processing method required to make the jelly recipe work. I’m not sure why the method is so jealously guarded by those in the know, because there seems to be no shortage of the berries, well, at least until the birds get a hold of them. I can only assume the secrecy is a matter of pride. Being able to whip out a treasured jar of mountain ash berry jelly at a fall wild-game feast would definitely bring favour to the maker.

The secret method? Freeze the ripe berries before using. It doesn’t matter if the cold temperature outside does the work or your freezer does, either way, the freezing of the berries is the key to turning the jelly from yuck to yumm!

The recipe itself is easy, if making jelly is an easy thing for you to do that is.

Mountain Ash and Crabapple Jelly Recipe

2 lbs mountain ash berries (thawed)
2 lbs crabapples or apples
Note: for a milder recipe use 1 lb mountain ash and 3 lbs crabapples
Add 3/4 cup sugar for each cup of juice used

In muslin or cheesecloth bag (for easier removal before jarring) add:
Peel of 1 lemon for each 8 cups of juice
2 cloves, for each 8 cups of juice

  • Wash frozen mountain ash berries and crab apples then put into pot. Cover with water to level of fruit and simmer until pulpy. Mash while cooking.
  • Strain for a few hours or overnight through damp cheesecloth in a colander or through a jelly bag. Don’t press or squeeze the fruit or the jelly will be cloudy.
  • Measure juice into pot, then bring to a light boil for 15 minutes.
  • Add sugar and the muslin bag containing the lemon peel and cloves.
  • Boil rapidly, stirring often and skimming off foam, until mixture reaches jelly temperature of 220 F.
  • Remove from heat, remove muslin bag, and pour jelly mixture into hot sterilized jelly jars. Seal (processing optional) and store in a dark, dry place.
I find this recipe sets just fine without the addition of pectin, but that may not be the same for you, so feel free to pectinize it. Excellent with meats, especially wild game and birds. Also great in yogurt.

More mountain ash (rowan jelly) recipes can be found in Preserving Memories: Growing Up in My Mother’s Kitchen, The Neighborhood Forager: A Guide for the Wild Food Gourmet, The Hedgerow Harvest: Traditional Recipes from Nature’s Storehouse, and The Jamlady Cookbook. Looking for a book that gives a rowan jelly recipe along with ways to use the jelly? Try Nichola Fletcher’s Ultimate Venison Cookery.

The only problem you’re likely to have with this jelly is beating the birds to the fruit. Good luck with that.

Note about seeds: Gwen at Gwen’s Healing Garden writes that the seeds of apples, peaches, chokecherries, and mountain ash berries contain small amounts of cyanide [I’ve also read a number of other poison variations depending on author]. She goes on to say that, “It’s important to note here that Chokecherries and Mountain Ash berries can be made into a jelly, as the seeds will be thrown away after the juice is extracted.” It’s a given that the same goes for apples and peaches.

Resource Links
Wiki ~ Rowan
Sacred Earth ~ Rowan Berry
Stock Food Images ~ Mountain Ash Berry ~ Sorbus americana ~ Mountain Ash Berry Wine Recipe
Danish ~ Rowan Schnapps Recipe
Plants for a Future ~ Mountain Ash

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Photo Credit: Michal Koralewsk

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