I have an old recipe book, first published by the Agricultural Press Ltd in 1935, comprising the favourite recipes of country housewives living in every corner of Britain; the recipes were collected over many years by Farmers Weekly magazine. It includes the following simple recipe:
"Take 3lbs of ripe rowan berries; pick the berries over, wash them, place in a preserving pan with just enough water to prevent them burning. Cook slowly until the berries are reduced to a pulp. Strain through a jelly bag.
Next take 3lbs of crab apples, wash and quarter. Barely cover with water, then boil gently until soft and pulpy. Strain. Mix both juices, weigh, and to every pound of juice add 1lb of sugar. Boil rapidly for 20 to 30 minutes or until the jelly 'sets' on a cool plate.
This is a firm, bright pink jelly, with a delightful piquant flavour. To those who think that equal quantities of fruits produce too acid a preserve, this jelly may be made with 2lbs of rowans and 4lbs of apples".
The Redesdale Rowans are covered in berries at present, but I knew of only one crab apple tree locally, one I had seen in fruit last year; unfortunately, when I went to look for it again I couldn't find it. As result I used cooking apples in the suggested alternative ratio of 2lbs of berries to 4lbs of apples.
According to Good Old-fashioned Jams, Preserves and Chutneys by Sara Paston-Williams (published in a revised edition by the National Trust in 1999) "the orange-red jelly ... is a traditional and best accompaniment for venison, grouse and hare". The writer adds: "I also like to serve it with mutton, lamb and goose". As a vegetarian, you would not expect me to discuss these uses with meat (a neighbour also tells me it is good with pork), but as a simple semi-sweet jelly, it is truly scrumptious spread on fruit scones for afternoon tea.
What's next? The Rowanberry Jelly is sharing a store shelf with my homemade lime marmalade and my made-from-a-tin orange and lemon marmalades. I found some bushes laden with rose-hips last week so I hope to gather some of these and make rose-hip & apple jelly. And if I find suitable elder berries this autumn, they too will find that I've arranged an appointment for them with the preserving pan.