Autumn berry time! Last year I foraged autumn berries (also known as autumn olives) for the first time. I found a few tall trees on the shared ground behind my house and the furniture store that lives there. I’m always on the look out for wild edibles. I love free, and I love new discoveries (to me). I also secretly love the idea that if something crazy (like the apocalypse???) were to happen, I’d know where to find food, something that may not come easily anymore. Yes, I’ve watched a lot of movies… Anyhow, I found that autumn berries, though not too common in the everyday kitchen are indeed edible. It took me a lot of research and checking with my foraging friends to ensure these were one of the little red berries that were NOT poisonous. Any good or newbie forager needs to note the ways the berries are clustered on the branches, the color and texture of the leaves on the front and back, the overall structure and grounds of the tree or bush and the color and texture of the berry inside and out as well. Looking at online pictures are a great way of determining this and reading about the growth location and patterns also. Here are a few resources:
Last year I decided to make fruit leather. It was a successful experiment which yielded quite a few portions but the autumn berry jelly I tried to make failed miserably. Not only did I have to use gelatin to gel the jelly, but adding sugar to the tart berry somehow masked the wonderful essence of the berry’s taste, which is a cross between a tart apple and a beautifully subtle lime (oddly enough), and turned the gelatin into a sugary mess.
I went looking for the patch again this year to continue my research, but the furniture store had all the trees removed (it’s a bit of an invasive species on account that birds will eat the berry and spit out the many seeds, planting new trees everywhere. This year I have a 7 week old baby to care for while making all my recipes which is challenging, and honestly not something I’m concerning myself with. If I don’t get to make any interesting treats for a while: OH WELL. But I was on a walk with her in the carrier and I discovered a new patch in a part of my neighborhood I’d never been. The trees were low, the berries were just dripping from the branches, and I couldn’t help myself. I picked the berries in between feedings and my husband watched the babe, and then it took me three days to process the goods, but I don’t regret it. It was really nice to get quality time to myself. For me, that isn’t reading in a coffee shop, it’s undertaking a food experiment.
You can spot the autumn berries because they have leaves with silver backs and speckled berries. They mostly grow in industrialized grounds and neighborhoods having undergone construction. They are full of vitamin C and taste super tart. Cant do too much with them and they have a pit so you have to food mill them into a paste. I decided to make fruit leather from them again and to try making a juice blend for the freezer.
First thing is you have to sorted berries to take out the stems and leaves. This takes the longest time but is no different than sorting other berries. You then have to mill the pits from the berry which I don’t know how else you would do it without a food mill. This is the one I have: Mirro 50025 Foley Stainless Steel Healthy Food Mill. This still leaves a lot of puree from the flesh and juices the berry appropriately. I suppose if you just wanted to make juice you could throw them in the juicer, but I’m not sure how a juicer would take those pits. When you have milled all the fruit, you can then strain the liquid with a fine strainer to separate the juice from paste.
Some puree still makes it into the juice, but I like this extra flavor. Just shake your juice before drinking. I mixed the paste with the flesh of three mangoes and one plum (whatever I had in my fridge), blended it and placed it on my dehydrating sheets for fruit leather in about 24 hours. You can make fruit leather from any fruit combo that’s not too juicy. Just have fun with your combinations. The autumn berries are super tart, so I used very sweet, ripe mangoes to counteract.
For the juice, I chose to add carrot and ginger, for a super healthy packed juice. I froze it in 500ml portions that I’ll either drink as is, dilute with water or soda water for drinking later, when I have a cold, or when I’m feeling new mom exhausted. If you freeze your juice in mason jars like I did, leave at least one inch of empty air at the top to prevent breakage.
(photo below: Left is the finished juice and right is just the autumn berry juice.)
Last thing I’ll mention is that even though I’m foraging for fruit, I’m still treating it like efficient hunting. Use everything you can from what your forage/use in your recipes. Juicing all those carrots yielded a LOT of carrot pulp. I make a really good sandwich bread (recipe below) that requires grated carrots. I’ll now have about a dozen portions of carrot pulp to add to my future breads, and the best part: no grating! I’ll have to add a bit of water to counteract the fact that the pulp is dried from the juices, but I’ll still get all that fiber that’s a great additive in homemade breads.
Now to make the above Juice and fruit leather, it’s more about process than the recipe. I used about:
16 cups of autumn berries to make the paste and juice
One 5lbs bag of carrots
Carrot and herb sandwich bread recipe (for breadmaker) 1 1/2 pound loaf
1/2 cup of water
3/8 cups of milk
2 cups of whole wheat flour
1 cup of bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
2/3 finely grated carrots
3/4 tsp dried dill
3/4 tsp dried thyme
3/4 tsp parsley
1 1/2 bread maker yeast
Put all ingredient in this order in the bread maker, then put on dough setting or on regular whole wheat setting for a 1 1/2 pound bread. I pull it out after the dough setting, then shape into a nice sandwich loaf, place in a buttered bread pan, let rise an hour then bake it at 350F for 35 minutes until the crust is a nice brown. Yum!