In Summer I like to make elderflower fizz the simple, quick way with nothing but the wild yeasts of the air. The result can be volatile so the best way to bottle Elderflower Fizz is to use old plastic soda or lemonade bottles as you have to let the gasses out occasionally. I’ve done it with swing top bottles but you have to keep your eye on them. The resultant fizz has an alchohol content of 3-5%. If you want to make a finer version you will have to add champagne yeast, use a demi-john with a bubble trap and fiddle about with the bottles quite a bit after decanting. I’m too impatient.
I also make cordial but that is best drunk in the Winter. The fragrance is so redolent of warm summer evenings is seems more special when drunk in the chilly darkness of a winter’s eve.. I make it with lots of sugar so the resultant syrup makes larger quantities, as you need more water to dilute it, I find most recipes too thin. You will need citric acid to bring out the flavour or the sugar overpowers the scent. Drink it now but put some of the syrup in jars in the freezer for the colder months and add it to cocktails.
To make Elderflower cordial
30-40 elderflower heads
3 litres water spring water
2kg caster sugar
1 packet of citric acid (available from chemists)
2 unwaxed oranges, juice and zest
3 unwaxed lemons, juice and zest
- DO NOT RINSE the elderflowers or you lose half the fragrance, shake gently to remove any dirt or little creatures.
- Boil half the water in a large pan, pour in the sugar and stir to dissolve it . Leave to cool. Add the rest of the water
- When ready add the orange and lemon juice and zest and then the flowers. I usually bag them in muslin weighted with marbles as suggested in my cartoon above.
- Leave in a cool place COVERED for 24-36 hours, stirring occasionally.
- Strain through some muslin and add the citric acid to taste, probably a teaspoon a litre but test it out.
- Bottle it or freeze it.
Other things to do with elderflowers:
Make the flowers into fritters
Use the cordial for drizzle cake
Mix the cordial through rhubarb and cream
Make fragrant jelly and entrap the flowers within it
Elderflower ice cubes
Store the flowers in your sugar jar
It’s Nettle Week, let’s celebrate with beer! Nettle beer can be ready to drink in a ten days but you could wait longer for a better brew. The flavour can vary from something similar to ginger beer to pale ale depending on your recipe. Traditionally, you add ginger and other hedgerow herbs such as goosegrass (pictured below) wild sorrel or horehound, for flavour.
Nettles are home to many species of moth and butterfly larvae such as the Red Admiral, Peacock and the Magpie moth and the plant supports over forty kinds of insects.
Nettle Seeds (dried before eating) are supposed to give one clarity of thought, a sense of well being, and heightened energy. I put them in smoothies to add a zing.
Nettle tea aids digestion and is good for the skin, kidneys and disorders of the urinary tract. Steep a few leaves in a mug of boiling water for 5 minutes first thing in the morning, for an excellent mild-tasting herbal tonic to start your day after the night before’s nettle beer drinking.
Nettle Tops (approx a carrier bag full or about 450-550g)
Optional – Mix with a handful of sticky wild goosegrass (also called cleavers)
5 lts water
10g of fresh ginger root crushed a little
Juice of two lemons
50g cream of tartar
A sachet of beer yeast
- Boil the nettles and ginger (add a handful of the cleavers, horehound, a little dandelion root or a little sour sorrel for different flavours) for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain through a colander lined with some muslin into a sterilised bucket.
- Stir in the sugar until dissolved and leave to cool. Add the lemon juice and the activated yeast. Cover and leave for three to four days.
- Making sure you leave the sludgy sediment at the bottom of the bucket, siphon the beer into a fermenting jar with an airlock stopper or sterilised swing-top bottles but beware of exploding bottles! You can brew this in sterilised plastic bottles to be on the safe side. Ready to drink in a week but you could wait longer for better beer. The flavour can vary from something similar to ginger beer to pale ale depending on your brew.
Another favourite way to eat nettles is Nettle Gnocci, made with light ricotta rather than potato flour, the recipe can be found on one of my earlier posts here: https://devonium.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/nettle-gnocchi-with-cherry-tomato-sauce/
It makes green soup and cordial
Or steep the leaves for tea
Or use it
as a tonic
As it’s absolutely free.
Ramsons form fragrant spring carpets in shady woodland areas at this time of year. The origins of many place names such as Ramsey Common, Ramsdale and Ramsbottom are derived from this ancient word. The plant is related to chives, and their botanic name, Allium Ursinum, contains the latin word for bear (ursus) as bears are extremely keen on them and dig up the bulbs with enthusiasm. Wild Garlic is easy to find in woods, just follow the aroma of garlic in the air and look for their shiny ovate leaves and white balls of little star-shaped flowers.The leaves taste much milder than bulb garlic and can be eaten raw. The flowers are also edible, have a peppery flavour and are very tasty when fried in batter as tempura.
Seasonal and delicious, Ramsons Relish has many uses –
Sandwiches – An excellent addition to cucumber, chicken or cheese sandwiches
Pasta – use the condiment like pesto
Smoked salmon or pan-fried fish – an excellent side sauce
Mayo – Mix it into fresh mayonnaise and use as a dip
Rice – Wild garlic risotto
Mash – Mix the relish into mashed potato.
Soup – Use the relish as a drizzle
Salad – Ramsons Relish makes an excellent addition to vinaigrette
Scrambled eggs – stirred into creamy scrambled eggs, divine.
Potato Frittata – one the side, one of the best
Jugged Hare by Mrs Beeton (use two or three rabbits as our beautiful hares are in decline).
Two or three rabbits
680g (11⁄2lb) Gravy Beef
285ml (1⁄2 pint) Port Wine
225g (8oz) Butter
Forcemeat Balls – fried or baked
6 Cloves (I use only 3)
Pepper, Cayenne and Salt, to taste
Skin, paunch and wash the rabbits.
Cut it into pieces, dredge them with flour and fry in boiling butter.
Have ready 900ml (11⁄2 pints) of gravy, made from beef and thickened with a little flour.
Put this into a jar.
Add the pieces of fried rabbit, an onion stuck with six cloves, a lemon peeled and cut in half and a good seasoning of salt, pepper and cayenne.
Cover the jar tightly, put it up to the neck into a saucepan of boiling (simmering) water.
Let it stew until the rabbit is quite tender, taking care to keep the water boiling.
When nearly done, pour in the port wine and add a forcemeat balls (these must be fried or baked in the oven for a few minutes before they are put to the gravy).
Serve with redcurrant jelly.
Time: 31⁄2 to 4 hours. Sufficient for 7 or 8 persons.