Gathering Wild Crab-apples


'Elspeth’s mother taught her to appreciate the value of all these wild and home grown ingredients'.

Our story starts in Swaledale, a few miles west of Richmond in one of Yorkshire’s most beautiful Dales. It is famous for dry stone walls, old field barns and wild flower meadows in the upper Dale and for its river which tumbles over rocks between green meadows and fell side fields along the narrow limestone valley.

Elspeth Biltoft’s formative years were spent in these idyllic rural surroundings with parents who were completely passionate about the countryside.
Her father was an amateur naturalist, angler and keen walker and encouraged her to accompany him at every opportunity. So, season by season, she was introduced to the secrets of her environment and the wealth of things it had to offer.

On their shared walks they would gather watercress from a secluded stream in late January, gull’s eggs in the early summer months, wild crabapples, sloes and blackberries and pounds of aromatic mushrooms in autumn.

Elspeth’s mother taught her to appreciate the value of all these wild and home grown ingredients. By preparing preserves together they were able to enjoy seasonal treats throughout the year. Favourites were Blackberry and Apple Jam, Wild Crabapple Jelly, Sloe Gin and Traditional Piccalilli.
By the early 1980’s, Elspeth was honing her skills by making preserves for her own family, faithfully following the eight traditional recipes handed down by her mother.

She still gathered from the wild, as well as her own kitchen garden, and had begun to develop her skills as a cook, experimenting with recipes, appreciating the flavours of named varieties of fruit and vegetables, while learning a little about the science of preserve making along the way.

Her love of countryside, appreciation of the seasons, respect for tradition and desire to perfect her preserve making skills had unwittingly formed the basis of her future business.