elderflowers and roses

Sparkling Elderflower and Rose Drink

The elder has flowered early this year, no doubt duped by the endless days of sunshine this year. As ever, the flowers closest to home are either too high for me to reach, on the wrong side of a wide ditch or next to a busy track along which lorries thunder past all day.

But, as I walked around the farm, I’ve kept an eye on a lone elder that overhangs the wide ditch running between Lakes Field and Great Forest, the branches dipping down just low enough for me to reach. If I stand on tiptoe. And reach precariously across the ditch. This week I decided the large saucer shaped flowers were ripe for picking and duly collected a small bagful of elderflower heads.


I flip flop each year between making elderflower cordial and a sparkling elderflower drink. I like cordial because it’s concentrated and keeps for a long time but I have to remember to buy soda water to mix with it as I prefer it fizzy. On the other hand, sparkling elderflower needs no soda water but takes up more room because it’s already diluted and needs careful storing so the bottles don’t explode.


This year, my mind has been made up for me. I have no desire to stand in a long, socially distanced queue at the pharmacy to buy citric acid (or more likely, try to buy it as they inevitably sell out), which is needed for the cordial recipes. So, it’s sparkling elderflower for 2020.

elderflowers and roses


This year, I’ve added a few scented rose petals to the mix. I hoped the rose petals would turn the drink pink as they do with the Elderflower and Rose Cordial but I didn’t use enough deep coloured petals so I have the flavour but not the colour. Which is fine by me.


If you’d like to make Sparkling Elderflower & Rose, the recipe is below. Leave out the rose petals for a Sparkling Elderflower drink.


Pick the elderflowers on a dry day, choosing the creamy new heads (rather than old and browning ones) and give them a shake to dislodge any lurking insects. Back home, use them straight away.

Sparkling Elderflower and Rose Drink


Ingredients

700g granulated sugar

2 tablespoons cider (or white wine) vinegar

20 good sized elderflower heads – flowers pulled or cut from main stem

4 roses – petals only (I snip them off with scissors)

1 lemon – juice and zest (use a vegetable peeler)

1 lemon – sliced

Directions


Put everything into a large bowl or a bucket and add 1 gallon (4.5 litres) of cold water.

Cover the bowl with a cloth (not cling film as it needs to breathe) and leave for 48 hours. Stir occasionally to help dissolve the sugar.

Strain and pour into sterilised bottles. Use bottles with corks or fizzy drinks bottles otherwise your bottles might explode (I speak from experience).

Leave the bottles in a cool, dry place for two or three weeks. If you use plastic bottles, you’ll know when it’s ready to drink as the gas will fill the bottles so that the sides are very firm.

Open carefully!




Summer Loving

It feels as though summer may have peaked and is about to start slowly drifting away. Time to make the most of the warm, sunny days, to take stock and enjoy some snippets of happiness.

combining wheat in field

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The wheat harvest has finished leaving fields of stubble, an interlude in the cycle of sowing, growing and harvesting. Today, the first wheat of the 2019 harvest was milled into flour and made into bread. There was a slight confusion between flour and flower when my two year-old grandson was invited to help. I feel he may have been slightly disappointed.

hen with green feathers

The countryside and garden are entering that slightly unkempt and beautiful stage of late summer. Vegetables are harvested from the garden every day with a fork to table distance of twenty paces. Naturally, there are courgettes that have grown far too big but happily, the hens enjoy the odd one lobbed into the run. One hen has also been eating the eggs, so she’s daubed with pig tattoo paste to make it easy to separate her at night.

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geraniums growing with tomatoes in trough

Geraniums have added a bright splash of colour to the garden this summer making me wonder why I’ve spurned them for so long. The herbs have proliferated, very much at home in the new garden, providing a flash of green in the bleached summer light. A batch of freezer raspberry jam has been made in the hope that its brilliant colour and fresh taste will bring back a ray of summer sunshine in the depths of winter. This year’s meagre crop of greengages has mainly been eaten by wasps, but I’ve delighted in the few we managed to pick. The rosehips, blackberries and sloes in the field hedgerows bear the first blush of colour and the ground is littered with the husks of hazelnuts discarded by the squirrels.  

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Chocolate biscuits and oat biscuits cooling on wire rack

Trays of biscuits have been baked for printmaking classes because everyone knows that a biscuit helps you to concentrate but otherwise, the oven has barely been turned on through the summer apart from bread baking and the Sunday roast. A splash of Manly Gin before Sunday lunch has kept alive memories of our Australian holiday. We flirted with fame or to be more precise, some of our family appeared on Australian TV for thirty seconds, which was quite long enough.  Our television has barely been switched on all summer apart from watching the netball and cricket. Piles of books have been borrowed from the library to read outside in the evenings while it’s still light. Reading fiction has been so much better than watching the news.

Happy days.


Making the most of the raspberry crop

August weather is always a bit changeable and as soon as the combine rolls into the field, you can be sure that rainclouds will follow. As ever, this year there has been much dashing about while the sun shines interspersed with hopeful weather forecast consultation while the rain pours down outside.

On the plus side, it’s been possible to pick raspberries in the sunshine and retreat inside to deal with them when it rains. The autumn fruiting raspberries are in full production and no doubt their good size is partly due to the rain. When we start to tire of eating raspberries for breakfast, lunch and supper I have to cast around for ways of prolonging the season because a couple of weeks after the crop has finished, they suddenly become desirable again.

First this year was a batch of raspberry ripple ice-cream. I’ve made gallons of ice-cream since I discovered how easy it is to make it with a carton of cream and a tin of sweetened condensed milk. It’s another of those things that I wish I’d known about years ago. If you’ve never tried the condensed milk recipe, try a batch of Raspberry Ripple ice-cream.

Making raspberry vinegarNext to make was a new batch of Raspberry Vinegar as I’m down to the dregs of my last bottle from 2018. Some modern recipes for Raspberry Vinegar don’t add sugar and some older ones use an awful lot. My recipe is halfway between the two, so you may want to adjust it either way. I suppose it depends how you plan to use it.

Next on the list are a couple of  Raspberry Loaf cakes. One for the printmaking class that’s running this week in The Barley Barn and another for the freezer. Just as soon as the rain stops so that I can pick more raspberries.  

No-Churn Ice cream raspberry ripple

Raspberry Ripple Ice-Cream

A simple to make fresh tasting ice-cream

Ingredients

• 200 g Fresh Raspberries
• 600 ml Double Cream
• 397 g Tin Sweetened, Condensed Milk
• 1/2 teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Directions

  1. Gently heat the raspberries with a splash of water in a small saucepan until they burst and the juice starts to run. Don’t boil or cook the raspberries.
  2. Push the raspberries through a sieve, which will give you a ruby coloured puree.
  3. Whip the cream until it’s floppy and then add the condensed milk and vanilla extract, continuing to whip until it’s incorporated.
  4. Pour in the raspberry puree and swirl through with a knife to give a ripple effect.
  5. Scrape into a plastic container, cover and freeze overnight until hard.

Move the ice-cream from the freezer to the fridge 30 minutes before serving to make it easier to scoop out.



Gorgeous Elderflower Fizz

Every year in late May and early June, the hedgerows on the farm are littered with large saucer shaped elder flowers with their distinctive heady scent. Last year I nearly missed the flowers as the hot weather turned them brown very quickly, so this year I’ve been out picking as soon as the tight buds burst into cream coloured flowers.

I used to make several bottles of elderflower cordial and elderflower fizz each summer, which were always drunk fairly quickly (apart from the odd bottle that got forgotten until it blew the lid off in the middle of the night showering everywhere with stickiness). But nowadays we rarely drink sweet cordials, which called for a rethink. The answer is to make infused water (continued throughout the summer using flowers, fruit and herbs) and a batch of elderflower fizz for special summer days.

Elderflowers are abundant across the UK in field hedges, roadside hedges, the fringes of woodland and wasteground. Pick your elderflowers on a sunny morning before they’ve endured the heat of the day and while they’re still heavy with pollen. Pick only the creamy coloured flowers and leave the flower heads that are turning brown to develop into elderberries. Shake out any insects that are lurking but don’t wash them.

Infused water is ridiculously easy to make and the Rose and Elderflower version looks pretty and tastes good. There’s no sugar, so it’s not sweet and cloying like some elderflower cordials and the taste is floral, but subtle. Sometimes the rose dominates, sometimes elderflower.

Strip the elder flowers from the main stem of three large heads – I don’t bother to remove the flowers completely, but you may wish to – and snip seven or eight large, petals from a scented, unsprayed rose into strips. Put the flowers into a jug, or a jar if that’s your thing, top up with 750ml water, cover and stand in the fridge. After a couple of hours, you’ll have delicately flavoured water. Use more flowers if you favour a stronger infusion or wait a bit longer until you start to drink it. I keep the flowers in the water for no more than a day, so if I haven’t finished the jugful, I strain out the flowers and keep the flavoured water in the jug.

Making infused water means foraging each day for your elderflowers, which can be a bit of a pain. Making a batch of Elderflower Fizz gets your foraging done in one day and then you have a few weeks to enjoy the fruits of your labour.


 

elderflowers


There are numerous commercial versions of Elderflower Presse or Sparkling Elderflower available but elderflowers are so widespread and this recipe is so easy, that it seems a shame not to make your own. Making your own also gives you the chance to vary the flavour a little; try adding some scented rose petals or lemon balm leaves. It’s a particularly English summer drink: floral, delicate and immensely quaffable.

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Elderflower Fizz

Floral, delicate and immensely quaffable drink for summer

Ingredients

  • 20 creamy elderflower heads
  • 700g granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar
  • 2 lemons

Directions

  • Put the peel (use a potato peeler) and juice from the lemons in a large bowl with the sugar and vinegar.
  • Strip the elderflowers from the main stems. Discard the stems and add the flowers to the bowl.
  • Add 1 gallon of cold water and stir to dissolve the sugar. Cover the bowl with a tea towel or mesh cover (not cling film as it needs to breathe) and stand for 48 hours in a cool place.
  • Strain into bottles. Use either flip top bottles that can withstand the pressure of a fizzy drink or reuse plastic fizzy drink ones.
  • Keep for a week or two as it builds up some fizz. If too much pressure builds, untwist the lid a little to release the pressure and reseal.
Best drunk within 3 months

If you’ve picked your elderflowers, made your Elderflower Fizz and Infused Water and still have some left over, you might be interested in:

Rose & Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Syrup & Cordial

Elderflower Creams

Rose & Elderflower Marshmallows

Jelly Printing with elderflowers