Person fastening a Muck Boot Forager. Image credit - Tobias Coombes

Foraging in Winter

Tom Burnham is one of the team behind Bristol based ‘Brozen Bar’, an innovative bar specialising in frozen cocktails. Doctor of Chemistry Tom and the team forage throughout the seasons, gathering ingredients (and inspiration) for their delicious cocktails! We will be following their forages throughout the year – here is what they got up to this Winter, wearing their Forager boots whilst on the hunt for nature’s bounty.
Person fastening a Muck Boot Forager. Image credit - Tobias Coombes
The winter might seem bleak and fruitless, but with a keen eye and the right sense of place you can still find some delicious wild foods. The best winter foragables have some of the strongest and most robust flavours of any wild foods available throughout the year, including heady alexanders, blindingly spicy black mustard, and tangy sea buckthorn. The warmest parts of the country are the coast and around ancient woodlands, so I find these are some of the best places to look. 
On sandy dunes in early winter around the UK you’re likely to find sea buckthorn, with its imposing brown spikes and bright orange berries visible from the distance. The berries ripen in autumn but stay fresh on the bush for many months after the leaves die back, leading to their stark appearance, cresting the peaks behind the beach, and dominating the landscape with a wall of impenetrable spikes.
Person picking berries from a tree
The berries have a paper-thin skin and grow bunched together at the base of each spike, which makes them almost impossible to pick them as you would with any other berry. Instead, you can employ one of two techniques. Either grab a branch towards its base and pull your hand gently (and carefully!) towards the tip, pushing the spikes safely down and bursting all the berries so that you can collect the juice underneath with a bucket. Alternatively, you can trim off a branch with some secateurs and put it in the freezer, then pick the frozen berries without any risk of them bursting. 
The flavour of sea buckthorn is hard to compare to anything else. They contain little sugar and have a very high acid content, so the juice is extremely sour as a result. The aroma is heady, funky and a little like tropical fruits – and it can substitute for passionfruit quite well in the right applications! It makes a fantastic mousse or posset, or dressing a few freshly shucked oysters with the juice is phenomenally delicious, but our passions lie in cocktails, where it really shines as a delicious ingredient.  
One riff on a modern classic is a buckthorn-spiked Pornstar Martini, which I’ve called a Siren Song. Whilst we would usually make every component ourselves, I’ll instead focus on the buckthorn and list easily available ingredients for each other component.
Cocktail Recipe #1 – Siren Song 

Firstly, make your Sea buckthorn and vanilla syrup: 100g sea buckthorn juice, 100g water, 50g white sugar, 150g demerara sugar, one vanilla pod. Combine the sugar and water in a pan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then take it off the heat and add the vanilla pod (cut in half) and the buckthorn. Sit in in the fridge overnight, then strain out the vanilla. This can be rinsed and added to a pot of sugar to make vanilla sugar for your baking and coffees! 
Siren Song 

50ml vanilla vodka 
30ml sea buckthorn & vanilla syrup 
15ml Passionfruit liqueur 
10ml lime juice 
Shake everything hard with plenty of ice, then strain and serve. Feel free to serve it with a shot of prosecco if you like, too.

Person preparing a cocktail in a pan

Cocktail Recipe #2 – Talisker & Buckthorn Sour 

Alternatively, the more adventurous may enjoy the fusion of smoky, briny island scotch with the fruity funk of buckthorn. In the past at Brozen Bar, we’ve made a frozen Talisker and buckthorn sour, served on a bed of seaweed foam, though for those without liquid nitrogen at their disposal, we have an alternative!  
30ml Talisker Skye 
10ml London dry gin (we used our own, of course) for its botanical touch 
20ml lemon juice 
10ml buckthorn juice 
15ml seaweed syrup (200g white sugar and 100g water, heated together with some seaweed of your choice and strained – foraged seaweed is great, but a nori sheet works surprisingly well too!) 
An (optional) egg white.  
Shake it hard without any ice to get lots of air into it, then add plenty of ice and shake it hard again to chill it down! You can serve it straight up, but I prefer it served in a tumbler with a few big rocks of ice.  
Related Product 
Best Boots for Foraging 
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