"In wildness is the preservation of the world." -H.D. Thoreau

Why eat from the wild? The answer is obvious to anyone who has felt the emotional uplift from the weight of a basket brimming with morel mushrooms, the earthy-sweet scent of digging Sassafras roots, or the heavy pulsing of a fish testing the limits of your fly rod.
There are a million reasons to eat wild, to get dirty, to taste fresh food. It is here where we connect to the Earth, our Ancestral past, immediate present and hope for a healthy future...

"Nothing else can build such awareness as surely and powerfully as practicing the ancient ecological art of humankind - foraging. It is not observation of, but rather participation in the phenomena of Nature that brings us to our greatest understanding of our place in the mosaic of life."
-Samuel Thayer The Forager's Harvest

Foraging in the Tip of the Mitten!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Processing Autumnberries

Autumnberry harvest at Raven's Roost Farm
If you came to our autumnberry harvest two weeks ago, or if you picked some autumnberries on your own time, you may still have a fridge or freezer full waiting to be turned into something delicious! I mean, the berries are pretty tasty on their own, but their flavor improves vastly when you process them-- plus, no more chewing on seeds!

Processing the berries is pretty simple. You just run them through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds, and process the juice and puree into whatever you desire: fruit leather, jelly, jam, sauce, etc. (Foley- and Roma-style food mills both work great for this.) You can run them through raw, but it's much easier if you cook them first.

Just dump all your berries into a heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add a bit of water so they don't scorch. The berries will release water as they cook, so you don't need to add much- just enough to cover the bottom. Turn the heat on high and wait for the berries to come to a boil. Turn burner down a bit and simmer until the berries looked shriveled and there's lots of juice. The longer you cook them, the less juice you'll have in the end. I cooked mine about an hour, but I wasn't interested in obtaining a large volume of juice. If you're really excited about autumnberry juice, cook them lightly (maybe 10-15 minutes.)

Berries cooking in a stainless steel stockpot
After you've cooked them, run them hot through a food mill. It's much easier to put hot food through than cold, so make sure you save yourself time to do this right after the berries come off the stove.

Processing berries using Foley mill
When using a food mill, be sure to turn the handle backwards fairly frequently to dislodge skin and seeds stuck to the bottom. Remember not to force through tough spots on the Roma mill- just turn the handle backward until the jammed area works itself loose. With the Foley, you have to exert quite a bit of downward pressure to really force the pulp through.

As you turn the handle of your food mill, you will notice that juice and pulp come out separately and don't really mix. The juice will be cloudy or completely clear, while the pulp will be bright red. This is because autumnberries contain huge amounts of lycopene, the red coloring agent and potent antioxidant found in tomatoes. The lycopene is not water soluble, so it sticks with the pulp, hence the red color. So if you want all those antioxidants- eat up!

At this point you can choose to separate the juice and pulp, or use them together. You can make excellent jam, sauce, or fruit leather from this mixture- just stir it up well before using. Or freeze it as is for later use.

If you want to separate the juice from pulp, you have a couple options. To extract the most juice, put the puree in some muslin or several layers of cheesecloth. Hang over a bucket in a cool area and let the juice drip out for a few days. Alternately, you can just let the puree sit in the fridge or a cool spot for a few days. The juice and pulp will naturally separate, allowing you to carefully pour the juice off the top.

Autumnberry puree after sitting in the fridge a few days
I opted to let mine sit in the fridge. While this picture makes it look like there's lots of juice in there, I actually only got about a cup from this batch. Keep that in mind when you're cooking your berries.

I like just drinking the juice, but you can use it to make jelly or substitute it in recipes in place of water or other fruit juices. The pulp can be made into fruit leather, jelly, or sauce. You may want to add some honey, syrup, or other sweetener. Or try mixing it with apple sauce- the flavors marry well! Alternately, just leave the pulp as is and freeze until further use. The sweet-sour flavor is reminiscent of cranberries and pairs well with meat. 

Experiment! And whatever you do... have fun!


  1. Great tutorial! I hope to get a ton more picked this weekend since sunny weather is in store. I made something new with mine this year, ketchup! I also have a really tasty spiced version of autumnberry jam on my site.

  2. Awesome! Thanks for sharing! Here's the link again (for some reason the one above didn't work): http://doghillkitchen.blogspot.com/2011/10/autumnberry-ketchup.html