Friday, 10 August 2012

The Magical Rowan

Although my physical relationship with the village of Fearnan in the Scottish Highlands ended long ago, the close spiritual bond has lasted a lifetime. This historic highland village not only provided a refuge during the stormy war years for my family, it invoked a sense of mystery, and yielded a kaleidoscope of vivid memories: Even today it is not difficult to visualize the village life as it was then, and when I close my eyes, just for a moment I believe I can see the white- capped waves on the loch and hear the children’s voices carried on the wind as they tumble from the schoolhouse at the end of the day.  

In the autumn, Mr. McLaren, the village tailor, like the Pied Piper, would lead us wee “bairns” through the brilliant hedgerows to gather hazelnuts, and on our return, his kindly wife would serve us bowls of wild brambles with fresh cream while we all settled to crack open our harvest by the hearth.

It was a time for gathering Rowan Berries. Every cottage in the Highlands had a Rowan Tree (Mountain Ash) planted at the gate to ward off evil spirits and to this day when you come across ruins in the hills you can find the stalwart rowan flourishing still where the cottage gate once stood.

Rowan berries make the most delicious jelly and here is a simple Scottish recipe that will sure to please. It’s traditionally served with game and lamb in the highlands but today is also delicious with cheeses and pate’s. 

I have searched in vain in North America for a commercial Rowan Jelly. Why not be the first to surprise your guests with this delectable treat?

Rowan Jelly
2 lbs. (900g) Rowan Berries
2lbs. (900g) Crab Apples
3 pints   Water
Sugar: See measurements below.
Makes 3 – 4lbs (1.4 – 1.8g)

Remove stalks and wash berries.  Wash crab apples.
Place fruit in heavy bottomed pot and just cover with water.
Bring to boil covered until tender (about 30 minutes)

Strain through Jelly bag or muslin cloth for at least 4 hours. Overnight is fine. DO NOT SQUEEZE BAG. (I did first time and the jelly was cloudy.)
Measure liquid and measure sugar: Measure the volume of the liquid; add 450 g (1lb. of sugar for each pint (600ml) of liquid.

Heat sugar in oven-proof dish in preheated oven (300F) is fine. Place the juice back into heavy saucepan. Add sugar, stirring until fully dissolved. Bring to boil and boil rapidly for 10-15 minutes until at setting point is reached (where a spoonful gel’s on a plate). Remove any foam if necessary.

Fill sterilized jars with the jelly and seal while still hot. Label later when cool. Enjoy!

Guest Blog by Alastair Barnett who commenced his career in the hotel business at an early age.  He apprenticed to Mr. Bill Heptinstall, patron de maison and chef  at the remote but famous Fortingall Hotel in the Scottish Highlands. (

After a three-year stint in the Royal Air Force, (where he was placed in charge of Officers' Catering) he continued his vocation in the hospitality business in the UK, and the US. Over a period of 25 years he has owned and operated several fine-dining restaurants in the Victoria area of British Columbia

Once retired from the hospitality business Alastair embarked on a lifetime dream
 to become a freelance writer .

He loves to cook for his friends. He enjoys producing fresh produce from a small garden
at his home on the outskirts of Victoria, British Columbia.

A recipe has no soul.  You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe. 
 ~Thomas Keller

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks Alastair. I have several Mountain Ash nearby and will try to make this recipe. Thanks for sharing it with me.