Wednesday 17 October 2012

Sorb Jelly Recipe

The sorb, also known as the Chequer or Wild Service Berry is the fruit of the Wild Service tree, Sorbus torminalis. It is native to Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor with a native habitat that extends from England and Wales to Denmark and Poland, south to northwest Africa, and southeast to southwest Asia from Asia Minor to the Caucasus and Alborz mountains.

It should also be noted that the seeds probably contain hydrogen cyanide. However, unless the seed is very bitter it's likely that the fruit is perfectly safe to consume and cooking will drive off the volatile hydrogen cyanide. The seeds are also discarded when making wine or fruit-infused spirits from service berries. The fruit is usually bletted if it is going to be eaten raw. This involves storing the fruit in a cool dry place until it is almost but not quite going rotten. At this stage the fruit's distinctive tartness has diminished and it has a delicious taste; somewhat reminiscent of a flavoursome tropical fruit. It is at this stage that the fruit is best for making fruit liqueurs.

Sorb Jelly Recipe

In this recipe, the sorb is used when ripe on the tree but not bletted, as it's its distinctive tartness that's needed for the jelly.


1kg sorbs (chequers)

500g sugar for every 600ml of juice


Wash the fruit, chop into pieces then place in a large pan. Add enough water to cover the fruit, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for about 40 minutes, or until the fruit is soft.

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, pour the liquid into a measuring jug then weight out 500g of sugar for every 600ml of fruit juice. Combine the fruit juice and sugar in a large pan and 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 for 30 minutes. Place a teaspoon of the jelly mix on the plate then move with your thumbnail. 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.

This makes an excellent accompaniment to game meats. I particularly like it with pheasant or guineafowl.

The recipe given above can also be made with medlars, crab apples and quinces (or quince and apple mixes).

For more information about wild service berries/sorbs see the Celtnet Wild Food information entry on Wild Service Berries (Sorbs/Chequers).

For all the wild food recipes on this blog, see the wild food recipes page.

Find more British recipes on the Recipes from the British Isles page of this blog.

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