We’ve been out today picking berries for our jams and cordials over the summer. We use the juice to make ice lollies and jelly sweets too.
There is so much fruit for free it would be a shame not to take advantage ha.
We start each year with Mahonia berries, they are a rich blue colour and sweet too.
They are everywhere in council plantings at the moment in the UK, however, they’re not a common edible in this country at least but they are AMAZING!!!
I believe in the USA they are called Oregon Grapes or Mountain Grapes??
They are high in pectin so are great to add to jams and jellies.
Which is exactly what we do with them, I make an amazing jam which I’d say is like blackberry jam but nicer!.
It’s also a good fruit for making cordials with for smoothies, ice lollies and ice creams etc.
So, how to make Mahonia Jelly from your Garden??
Well I guess it does depend on whether you have this in your garden. It’s such a popular shrub in the UK thanks to its beautiful yellow flowers in later winter and its spiked leaves that make a great boundary plant. But for those of you in the Uk who don’t grow it, check out your counsil planting areas.
Along with Dogwood your likely to find it there. We have 2 bushes/ trees the size of 2nd storey houses in our local park.
Before we go any further id like to tell you all that i have included some affiliate links within this post. These products I have recommended are ones I use and believe in wholeheartedly. If you decided to buy through these links I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.
What is Mahonia Aquilifolium?
Mahonia is a fast growing evergreen garden shrub which is also known as Oregon Grape or Mountain Grape. It has glossy leathery leaves which are also super spiked.
Large spires of yellow flowers appear in early spring, followed by black/purple berries.
How to grow a Mahonia shrub in your garden
These plants are so popular as they are happy to tolerates a very wide range of growing conditions but they do best in humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil in semi-shade.
A warning though as they do get large over time, mine is 10 years old and it’s now 2 metres high.
Each spring I do remove some branches and thin it out to keep it at a manageable size but i have seen them a lot bigger. So plan ahead and ensure you’ve got room.
When to pick berries- watch out for prickles.
Pick the purple berries around May time in the UK. The birds love them too which makes this bush a valuable wildlife plant too. They freeze well too so if you pick alot just wash them and freeze them until your ready to make something.
The prickly leaves mean its tough to get all the berries so the birds will still find some to munch.
Making Mahonia Jam
2kg of Mahonia berries, picked when dark blue and juicy
1200ml of water
Caster sugar, as much as you need (see below)
Before you begin, put a small side plate or similar in the fridge to chill.
Also wash 4 large jars or 6 smaller ones and put them on a baking tray upset down. Set the oven to around 100°C and leave the jars to warm and sterilize.
1. Taking a large pot or soup pot, put in 2kg of washed berries.
2. Top this with water and bring to the boil and keep boiling for 10 minutes or until all the fruit is swollen and burst open.
3. Take a potato masher and mash the berries to a pulp. Mahonia berries have large pips in the middle so this mixture needs to be sieved to remove them
4. Sieve the mix (slightly cooled) through a muslin cloth or a jelly bag to remove the pips.
Now for the maths bit, don’t panick it’s easy!
For every 600ml of the fruit juice you have, add 450g of Caster sugar.
So, if your left with 1200ml of liquid you should add 900g of sugar. See easy!
5. Once you have your liquid and sugar in the pan, slowly bring it to the boil and then simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
6. Stir all the time slowly until the sugar dissolves completely.
This is the point you can use the juice as a cordial, in ice lolly moulds or as an addition to a milkshake. Yum
To make the Jam.
7. Boil fast and hard for another 10 minutes.
8. Now is the time to remove the plate you put in the fridge earlier. Spoon a teaspoon of the jam onto the plate and leave it for a second then tilt the plate. If the jam has reached its setting point, the jam will run a little but remain mostly in a blob.
Also if you run a finger through the jam on the plate you should clearly see a line through the jam that doesn’t fill in. If so, it’s time to pot up.
9. Leave the jam to cool slightly as you take the hot jars from the oven and turn right way up. I like to use a ladle to spoon the hot jam mix into the hot jars. Clean the tops of the jars and seal well.
10. Leave to cool in a quiet corner. And that’s it. Once you’ve done it once or twice you will develop a ‘feel’ for it and making jam will be a regular project from all sorts of free stuff.
Want to know more about foraging for food? Try Foraging With Kids to start you off.