Monday, 23 August 2010

flower power

Ok so, I mentioned I've much bottled up to share with you here and one of those tales was the results of my elderflower extravaganza earlier this summer. Well we're just a little late for the elderflowers this year (aherm) but there is a pertinent point! If you are in anyway inclined to jam, bottle or stew your own then I highly recommend to you River Cottage Handbook No.2: Preserves by Pam Corbin.  It's an incredibly useful book and having now tried several recipes: Candied orange sticks, Pontack, Winter Fruit Compote and Onion Marmalade, I really think it's a must have for the homemade gift giver.

The elderflower cordial really was very simple to make. The only bit of 'kit' it requires is a jelly bag and I resolved to fashion my own as coughing up (up to) a tenner for one seemed really unnecessary. Don't do it I say! If you've got a shelf edge, cupboard or anywhere you can hang an 'S' hook and place a bowl underneath - you are sorted. The muslin cost me under a pound and I could have made two bags with it but instead made one four layers thick. 

Sew-yer-own JELLY BAG:  
① Buy enough muslin to make a large square approx. 80 x 80cm. Fold the square in two with the selvedge edges on the long sides and fold in two again to make a square. With the raw edges together, sew a seam  0.5cm in. Now turn your square inside-out, press the seam flat and stitch 1cm in along all four edges, encasing the raw seam. To make loops to hang your bag from thread a needle with a double thickness of strong thread. Place three small tacking stitches in the corner to the inside of the stitching, make a loop about 3cm wide and secure with another few stitches. Repeat on each corner. Voila! 

The finer points of the elderflower...

 Pam Corbin recommends picking your elderflowers just as they are beginning to open, I missed this important point with the first bag of flower heads I picked - the one that I lost my kitchen scissors over the cemetery wall for! They smelt slightly musty in full bloom and the liquor went rather unappealingly brown overnight. It got ditched and I investigated some more before my second attempt...

In Food for Free, Richard Mabey advises not to wash the flowers or else loose the delicate perfume. I found that an enthusiastic tap on the kitchen counter was a better way to remove any beasties.  

Anna del Conte, in her collection Amaretto, Apple Cake and Artichokes recommends choosing an elder in a sunny spot to pick your flowers from as these will have the very best flavour.

And the flavour really is the best! So much lovelier than any shop bought cordial I've tried and with a beautiful golden glow. I quickly made a second batch as I'd wanted to give some bottles away but on tasting didn't feel quite so inclined to part with my small hoard of summer in a bottle!

What next from this delicious book? Bramley lemon curd: "it's like eating apples and custard". Pam - I'm hearing ya!

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