Recipe: Sea buckthorn berry and apple jelly – plus, an e-book of sea buckthorn berry recipes!

I originally posted this entry way back in 2012, and followed it up several years later by publishing an e-book chock-full of sea buckthorn berry recipes.  As it is harvest time for these pretty delicacies in many locations, and I’m seeing a few requests for recipes, I’m going to post this again for anyone who is interested!

Recipe: Sea buckthorn berry and apple jelly.

(Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

My hubby and I managed to get out this past Saturday morning and gather some sea buckthorn fruit so that I could try my hand at making jelly from it.  If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ll recall that I made a sea buckthorn beverage last year – I just love the citrusy taste of the berries and their gorgeous sun-bright colour.

Sea buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides) is a fairly common roadside plant here in Calgary – the City planted many of them years ago, mostly for erosion control on slopes.  It’s one of those shrubs you’d be hard-pressed to kill:  it’s tough-as-nails, drought-tolerant, pollution and salt-tolerant (good for our winter roads and all that de-icing salt), and a fairly aggressive spreader.  You don’t find it employed as an ornamental landscape plant very often, but it’s really very pretty, with silvery-green leaf clusters and the brilliant autumn fruit.  (Both male and female plants are required for fruit production).  Sure, some people may be turned off by the thorns, but they contribute to the shrub’s rabbit and deer resistance, which can’t be a bad thing, right?!

The only thing that irks me to no end about gathering sea buckthorn berries is that it’s just such a difficult process – the fruit only comes off the stems under extreme duress.   The kind of duress that leaves you standing there with bright orange seabuckthorn juice all over your clothes and squirted in your eye.  I’ve read that commercial harvesters of the shrub just go along and prune off fruit-bearing branches, freeze them for awhile, and then “shake” the berries free…but I didn’t give that a go.  I ought to have – it took me FOREVER to get the berries off of the branches.

But it’s worth it for this jelly.  Trust me.  It’s so yummy and pretty!

Small-Batch Sea Buckthorn and Apple Jelly

(I added apples to this recipe because I didn’t use commercial pectin – sea buckthorn doesn’t have very much natural pectin, so the addition of a high-pectin fruit helps the jelly set properly.  I had some British Columbia-grown ‘Sunrise’ apples, but use any variety you love.  Crabapples would work as well).

4 cups sea buckthorn berries, washed thoroughly

3 apples, washed, peeled, cored, and diced finely (if you don’t want to go to the trouble, and your apples are organic, you can leave the peels on)

1/2 cup water

Place berries, apples and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer fruit for 20 minutes.  Stir periodically and crush the fruit against the side of the pan with the back of the spoon.  (It all mashes down pretty well on its own, and won’t require much additional help).

Strain the fruit through a jelly bag (or several layers of cheesecloth) over a large bowl.  Don’t force the fruit through the bag – this will make the jelly cloudy and you don’t want that!  Set it up so that the fruit can slowly strain overnight.

In the morning, sterilize your canning jars and lids.   Measure out the juice.  I ended up with 2 cups using this recipe, but your measurement may vary slightly.  Place the juice into a saucepan and mix in an equal amount of white sugar.  Bring the sugar and juice to a rolling boil and boil, stirring constantly, until you’ve reached gel point.

Carefully pour the jelly into the sterilized jars, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes (don’t forget to adjust the length of time according to altitude, as specified in this handy chart).  If you plan to eat the jelly soon and don’t want to go to all the trouble of processing jars for storing, you can just pop the jars into the fridge once the jelly is cool.  It is a very small batch, after all…and you’ll be hooked once you have a taste!

Do you grow sea buckthorn in your garden, or do you forage for sea buckthorn berries?  

 Looking for more sea buckthorn berry recipes?

My sea buckthorn berry recipe book, Sea Buckthorn Bounty: Recipes is now available here!

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Adventures in canning.

Well, I finally made myself return the boiling water canner and racks to their winter home high up on the top shelf of the pantry.

I did a LOT of canning this summer, and I’m not done yet:  once I can get my hands on a few bags of Meyer lemons, I’ll haul the canner back down for another round or two.  (There are a few canning projects that I simply must undertake every year, and making Meyer lemon jelly is tops on the list.  You would not believe how good it tastes).

I had a few canning firsts this year, including the batch of lilac flower jelly that I made in early summer (as you’ll recall in this post).  I also tried lemon balm jelly, because for some strange reason I put three lemon balm plants in one of my community garden beds, and of course – cue the laughter from everyone reading this – they grew to insane proportions and tried to suck the marrow out of the universe.  (I thought maybe our wonky weather would keep them down to a dull roar, but apparently they thrive on wonky.  Ah, the delights of the mint family…).  Fortunately, I REALLY like lemon balm tea.  You also need a good pile of leaves to make jelly, so that’s one of the things I did.  I used my standard recipe for making floral jellies and then when I wasn’t watching (first rule of canning:  you ALWAYS have to watch!), I cooked the mixture beyond the gel point and now I have jars of jelly that you can’t spread on toast without a heavy machine operator’s license and the use of a road paver.  Uh, oops.  It tastes mighty fine, though…you just have to wrestle it out of the jars.

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The lemon balm that ate the world.  I know we’ll meet again.  Next spring, probably. 

Another new venture was far more successful.  In July, my hubby and I went out to a u-pick farm in Lacombe, nearly 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary.  You have to go out early to pick what we were after:  haskaps (also known as honeyberries, the edible fruit of certain species of honeysuckle) get a bit mushy at high temperatures and become nearly impossible to remove from the branches.  The farm’s owners were scrambling to remove debris from a huge hailstorm the night before and setting up several carloads of people in an adjacent field, where they were picking buckets of huge red strawberries.  We were the only ones out with the haskaps, and after we helped one of the owners pull the bird netting off of a row of the shrubs, I got to work.  This was my first time picking haskaps, but I was prepared for their soft texture:  you don’t yank them off and throw them in buckets as you would with most berries.  They have to be finessed in such a way with gloved fingers (it’s very important to wear the gloves) so that you don’t squish them and then you lay them gently in flat boxes, being careful not to pile too many on top of each other.  While there are haskap cultivars with berries that are less soft than others, I found that in the building heat, they pretty much juiced themselves even with my careful preparation.  I picked almost six pounds of the beauties and most of them were turned into the most incredible jam I’ve ever tasted.  They have a flavour reminiscent of the best blueberries you’ve ever eaten, but tangier.  And waaaaaaaay better.

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I guess I was so busy “finessing” the berries off the shrubs that I forgot to take any decent photos.  Sorry! 

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 I did manage to capture a view of how easy these shrubs are to access for harvesting.  You can sit down to pick the berries and there’s no need for a long reach.

We also picked sour cherries at a farm outside of DeWinton, south of Calgary.  Sour cherry jam is another annual must-do project of mine, but this year I used a low methoxyl pectin and let’s just say, it is necessary to add more sugar than I did.  You may be able to cut it in other recipes but sour cherries are…well…sour.

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I’m reminded that I have a few containers of sour cherry pie filling in the freezer.  Mmmmmmm….

The pectin fared awesomely in the Saskatoon (serviceberry) jam I made – without all that sugar, you really get walloped with the gorgeous sweet-almondy flavour.  I usually make Saskatoon jam (I’d argue about being too lazy to strain the seeds out but I’m too lazy to argue) but maybe next year I’ll change it up and go with jelly.

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Ho boy, now I’m thinking about the saskatoon tarts they make and sell at the u-pick farm.  Now I won’t be able to sleep tonight…I’ll keep getting up to check the fridge to see if a tart has magically appeared. 

Then, there were our foraging trips…one of which lasted a lot longer than intended because we got turned around and then there was some scrambling down hillsides and some swathing through heavy brush and mistakenly ending up on private property (shhhhh)….ahem.   We came out of that with a big bag of chokecherries and rose hips.  The chokecherries ended up in a combo with peach juice and the rosehips in a vitamin C knockout with raspberry juice, and let’s just say we don’t have any jars of those left.  They were worth every spiderweb in my hair and all the scratches on my arms!

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Rosehips

Chokecherries

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Did you do any canning this year (or are you still planning any canning projects)?  Whether or not you make them yourself, what are your favourite jams and jellies to eat?  What about pickles and chutneys?