There are a lot of elder trees with generous displays of flowers all around our local area, so we collected a carrier-bag full and tried to make some cordial. There were a fair few bugs that needed to be removed from the flower heads, then we steeped them in boiling water and left them overnight, with the zest of a few oranges and lemons. The next day we added sugar and water and brought to the boil, then bottled in very sticky bottles.
All posts in Kitchen
- Bottled elderflower cordial
- Dissolving sugar
- Steeping flower heads
- Elderflower heads and citrus zest
- Bagful of elderflower heads
From a recipe in River Cottage Everyday – chopped rhubarb from the garden, cooked with orange juice and zest and a generous garnish of honey.
- Raspberry sorbet
- Sieving raspberry pulp
- Battered raspberry punnet
Since the inedible disaster of the cucumber sorbet, we’ve had another try, again without any specialist equipment. We bought a few punnets of cheap battered raspberries, put them through a food processor and then sieved out the seeds, then added a little sugar water and put into the freezer, again stirring periodically until it was set. The result was far better than the cucumber attempt.
- Straining beech leaves
- Finished liqueur
The beech leaves have been steeping in gin for a couple of weeks now, so we’ve taken them out and strained the liquid through muslin, and added a little sugar water, and we now have the lightly tasting and slightly golden liqueur.
- Remove skin and seeds from cucumber
- Fresh peppermint leaves
- Processed into a liquid
- The resulting sorbet
We don’t have an ice-cream machine, but in the continuing effort to do something with the cucumbers that are delivered in our vegetable bag, we have tried to make a cucumber sorbet. We blended up the flesh and added peppermint leaves, shredding these in the food processor too. We added a little sugar and water, and then put it in the freezer, making sure to stir the mix through with a fork every hour or so. The result was not good – massive ice crystals and still the formidable taste of cucumber.
- Malted barley measured out according to IPA recipe
- Pouring into mash tun
- Mashing grains
- Measuring hops
- Bloom of hops at the end of boil
This will be a beer brewed without a kit. We have ordered the malt, hops and yeast to follow a recipe for an American-style IPA. We’re using Maris Otter base malt with small amounts of Munich and Crystal malts. The hops are Apollo and Bravo – both a very high in alpha acids – and this is the first time we have brewed with dried hops rather than pellets.
The last of our pickled onions, pickled beetroot and sweet cucumber pickle.
- Beech leaf infusion
- The contents of the pickle cupboard
We have been foraging for beech leaves, as we thought we would follow an old recipe for a gin infusion. We have collected up a carrier bag of beech leaves, brand new as they are just appearing on the trees, and put them in a jar with a bottle of gin to steep for a few weeks. The colour is vivid at first, but has dimmed as the infusion steeps.
- Watercress soup with handmade sourdough
- Blending ingredients for watercress soup
It does not take long to make some soup when we find a bunch of watercress in our vegetable bag. Sweat a leek and add some stock and a chopped potato – simmer until the potato is cooked and then add the chopped watercress for a few moments, then use a hand blender to blend to a soup texture. A delicious peppery lunch.
The third beer we have made, the grapefruit honey ale brewed a couple of weeks ago, is a triumph. It is clean and crisp and has a strong citrusy finish, without any of the debris and aftertaste that has plague previous homebrews.
- Sliced cucumbers with onion and bronze fennel
- Bottled pickle
- Sliced cucumber
It’s always difficult to find something to do with a cucumber. We’ve tried pickling cucumber before, and it wasn’t all that nice. The contrast between the tough skin and the soft watery interior perhaps adds to the problem. This time we have tried a sweet pickle, and sliced the cucumber very thinly. The thin slices are mixed with thinly sliced onion, a little bronze fennel (the recipe calls for dill but we only have bronze fennel on our herb bench) and sugar and white wine vinegar. The thin slices should mean the pickle will fit into sandwich fillings.
Having a cast iron cookpot makes slow cooking difficult joints of meat, like oxtail, very easy. We just fried the oxtail pieces to seal them, then added them to the pot with some onions, carrots, thyme and bay leaves, added a little beef stock, and put it in the oven at around 140C for a couple of hours. The result is deeply flavoured rich pieces of meat.