For more information on rowan berries (and more recipes) see the Celtnet Wild Food Guide entry for Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia), part of the Celtnet Guide to Wild Food.
Rowan and Apple Jelly Recipe
This is much less tart that the more usual rowan jellies, but I like to make it to serve with pork or wild boar. It also makes an interesting accompaniment to Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey.
Note that Rowan berries are very bitter and you will need to add both sugar and salt to balance this. Much of this bitterness is caused by the compound sorbic acid. You should also note that raw Rowan berries also contain sorbic acid's precursor parasorbic acid. This causes indigestion and in high doses it can lead to kidney damage. However, heat treatment converts parasorbic acid to the benign sorbic acid. Thus if you have cooked the fruit in some manner they are entirely safe to eat. Freezing also helps in this conversion process so if you collect the fruit immediately after the first frost and then freeze them before preparation this will also help reduce the levels of parasorbic acid in the fruit.
Rowan berries are very variable in flavour. The best are ones that are not too bitter. When you come to a new tree, taste a berry from it. If it's very bitter, move on to another tree. This recipe is also a good way of using under-ripe windfall apples, which are common right now.
500g rowan berries, freed of their stalks
500g crabapples (or tart cooking apples), roughly chopped
420g sugar per 500ml of liquid
Combine the rowan berries and apples in a large pan. Just cover with water then bring to a simmer. Cover the pan and simmer gently until the fruit are reduced to a pulp (between 30 and 40 minutes).
Take off the heat then turn into a jelly bag and set aside to drain naturally (do not be tempted to press down on the fruit pulp, or the final jelly will be cloudy). It's best to allow the juice to drip naturally from the fruit over night.
The following morning, measure the volume of juice then weight out 420g of sugar for every 500ml of juice. Combine the juice and sugar in a saucepan. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved then bring to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes. AFter this time test for setting.
Cool a plate in the refrigerator. Place a teaspoon of the jelly mix on the plate then move with your thumb. If the jelly form a skin it's ready for potting. If not, cook for 5 minutes more and test again.
Ladle the jelly into cleaned and sterilized jars that have been warmed in the oven. Fill the jars up to 1cm of the top. Close the lids securely on the jars and set aside to cool. Label and store in a cool, dark, cupboard. They will keep the whole winter if not opened.