The foraged food taster at the MVMNT cafe in November entailed preparation of food and drink on a grand scale, far more than most people would ever undertake at home. Fortunately, we had access to the kitchens at GCDA with all the catering sized pans. It was one of these I had earmarked for the preparation of the large bag of rosehips I had collected beforehand.
Let me tell you, it took over an hour to pick through them all, removing any stalks still attached and discarding any that were too manky to be of use. The original wartime recipe gives instructions to mince the rosehips coarsely; when I made this at home last year, I snipped them up with kitchen scissors, but there was no way I could face doing that after spending all that time in preparation before I had even started cooking. Instead, I washed them and started cooking them up whole, before breaking them up with a potato masher as I had done with the haws at home. As I had to leave off cooking to get elsewhere, I just had time to decant the juice into jars, straining it through a nylon sieve, whilst the part-cooked rosehips were loaded into a plastic container once they had cooled. Both were taken home and stashed in the fridge for further processing later.
The final stage in the process involved straining the jars of juice again – the contents needed heating to loosen them since they had gelled slightly in the fridge, and cooking up the part-cooked hips to extract more juice, before placing a goodly dollop of the mixture in the nylon sieve and agitating over a large bowl to encourage the juice out. The seedy slurry went into the compost bin. All was sieved again (a very important point) to make quite sure to remove the hairs that can irritate the gut and simmered to reduce the volume of liquid by about half before adding an equivalent volume of sugar. Then followed a lengthy session of cooking down, until finally, a thick paste-like jelly was produced, to be spooned out into scalded jars. This can be spread like jam or mixed with water to make a drink. Foraged food is certainly not ‘free’, if you take into account the time and energy used to process it, but that is not the point. It is about producing something you can’t buy in the shops and engaging with your environment, and having fun whilst doing so.