The first frost is a significant marker in the colder months of the year. Whether you look forward to it or dread it, it has an important function for wild fruits, us and the rest of the natural world.
Previously I've written about how frost and snow effects seaweeds in; Can seaweeds survive the frost and snow?
Cornish Frost - Myth or Reality?
Here in West Cornwall and by the coast, I never know whether the first frost will arrive at all. Where the warm currents and breezes from the sea can help keep the temperature more ambient. Exposed to the prevailing Southwesterly winds that blow in from the Atlantic means that Cornwall is considered the mildest and warmest place in the UK.
Here we can sometimes sit on the beach on Christmas Day, and sometimes the frost, never, ever arrives. It is true that the closer to the ocean you get, the milder the winters and the cooler the summers are.
What does the frost do to wild fruits and is there an alternative?
The frost has the effect of both breaking the skins of the fruits and sweetening them. A welcomed impact for desserts, flavoured gin, jams, jellies and much more. Of course, living in the modern age means you don't have to wait for the first frost.
Why? Because we have freezers. It is true, popping the fruits in the freezer is not as romantic as getting up at dawn to collect glistening fruits breaking their frost virginity. Though it is more convenient.
Freezers also mean that you can attend to your fruits - whatever you want to create with them - when you have ample time to enjoy the process.
Frost is beneficial to both the texture and sweetness of wild autumnal fruits. I have plenty of recipes for wild berries in my autumn blog. I also run hands on, practical foraging courses in autumn and all year round.
Perfect for sluggish, cold days, this fruit leather is a fabulous pick-me-up. This recipe is definitely worth the effort, you'll have about 8 strips of fruit leather and will just need a nibble as a lift, so they last for ages!
The fruit of the hawthorn tree (Crataegus monogyna or Crataegus laevigata), can be good for the heart, can get your 'chi' moving (your life force energy), be uplifting and tasty. Lets get down to the fruity business of haws.
It's November, and now is the perfect time to pick these fruits. They are a lovely dark red colour, and still a plenty, if you find the right tree. This recipe is suited for those who enjoy processes and have some patience. It's not quick, it takes some mashing, though is delicious and as we know, it is good for the heart...
Hawthorn Fruit Leather Recipe
Hawthorn fruit leather is a deliciously simple snack. It has a bit of a tang and a hint of natural sweetness to get you through sluggish afternoons or slow mornings. It's made from mashed haw berries, apple and honey. It's also great for packed lunches, a snack for walking, gifts and will keep for up to 6 months or a year even. Here it is....
- 450g haws
- 450g apples
- 350ml water
- 3 tbsp honey
Remove the stalks from the haws, and chop the apples into pieces, don’t worry about removing the core, as it will all be sieved. Place the fruits and water in a medium and bring to the boil. Cover, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the fruits are soft and strain through a sieve into a large, bowl. Allow the fruit pulp to cool, and using a wooden spoon, mash and push the fruit pulp through the sieve, then stir in the honey. The more you do this, the more pulp you’ll be able to extract.
Once you’ve extracted all the pulp you can, if using a dehydrator, spread the contents over two Teflon sheets and dehydrate according to instructions. Otherwise, heat the oven to 140°C and line a 20cm by 40cm baking tray with baking paper including part the way up the sides. Pour the fruit pulp into the tray, spread evenly and bake for about 4– 5 hours, or the fruit is slightly tacky though doesn’t stay stuck to your fingers and peels away easily from the paper.
If the fruit is drying unevenly, turn the tray around in the oven, or be prepared to slice off the edges, if over-cooked when done. Peel off the tray, cool and cut into pieces or strips and store in a sterilised jar or wrapped in greaseproof paper.