Thursday, 25 June 2009
Summer in a glass
Take one lovely fellow blogger (Emma), a bucket, a pair of secateurs and some sunshine. Add to this the now obligatory jam doughnuts and drinks that accompany our little jaunts (this is by no means compulsory but advisory).
(Emma and her bucket)
Set out on a summer's morning with purpose in your stride and laughter in your hearts.
Fill the said bucket with the whitest, sweetest elderflower heads available. At this point, speaking from experience, we would advise the wearing of long trousers to avoid the masses of nettles that seem to protect every single elderflower bush we stumbled upon and the carrying of a stick/set of ladders (which fit neatly into your bag) to compensate for your lack of height and the fact that all the best blooms are as high up as a mountain top!
Stop for a while to eat the aforementioned doughnut, sip the shop bought elderflower cordial you brought along knowing that tomorrow you'll be sipping your very own brew.
Stagger up the hillside and stop to admire the many butterflies and wild orchids (again, this is obligatory as it adds to the sweetness of your drink). Spend a lot of time wishing you could make headdresses from elderflowers, garlands and wedding bouquets and wanting to live in the 1930s...
Arrive home and put the kettle on. Take cup of tea out into the garden and give those elderflower heads a good shake, Remember to count each head to ensure you use the right amount of ingredients, in our case things got so complicated that we almost wished for a calculator but thankfully help was at hand when we reread this wonderful recipe here, , thank heavens for imperial measures, it was all getting very confusing when we were dealing in kilos of sugar.
Into a large old preserving pan (preferably your mother's - thank you Mother of Mrs Sew Recycled) add enough sugar to rot entire family's teeth and those of any guests who happen to call. Add water and bring to boil whilst stirring.
Just when you feel your arm's going to drop off from all that stirring add flower heads (then scoop them out again as you have forgotten to remove acres of woody stem), lovely lemons and gold dust (I mean citric acid - it seems that you might be able to get your hands on some of this just in time for next year's harvest as there is apparently a national shortage, failing that, for a nominal fee I will reveal my source (!!!).
Cover with a clean cloth and leave to steep for 24 hours. During this time you might feel it necessary to stand in various corners of the kitchen sniffing the air as we did trying to work out whether we could smell cat's pee, lemon or somewhere the scent of elderflower ...
Return home and anxiously await phone call from friend to tell you that, yes, there is a distinct whiff of elderflower in the air.
Next day on return to friend's house stop off at baker's to buy some cake (just to enhance the flavour of the cordial you understand, but seriously contemplate any further visit to local baker's in disguise once you realise just how often you pop in there).
Arrive at friend's house, Put kettle on, have tea, eat cake and chat.
Momentarily forget why you are there and chat some more. An hour or so later, remember the reason for visit. Take bottles, try desperately once more to remove dried up orange juice that are in them, friend will hopefully mention foolproof plan of bicarb, rice and boiling water to do the trick.
Slowly begin to strain the brew into bottles and avoid sticking to everything you come into contact with as the liquid is just SO SWEET AND STICKY. Halfway through, have minor panic that cordial may just taste of cat's pee and/or you have discovered some kind of magic elixir as the pan shows no sign of emptying. Rummage around kitchen emptying bottles as you go to use for cordial. Half an hour later wonder at the vat of cordial that's on the worktop and think perhaps there really was no need to double all the ingredients.
Wash hands, wash worktop, wash floor, wash skirt, wash everything that has come into contact with this sugary delight. Take a bottle of fizzy spring water that your friend has just had delivered, dilute cordial and pour into glass.
Take into garden, spend a lot of time sniffing and giggling and have your first sip - summer in a glass, I promise.
After a few glasses convince yourself it's fermented and that you are now just a tad worse for wear, remember that of course it hasn't and it's just all those bubbles.
Return to kitchen, view once again all those bottles and wonder just how much you can drink ...
Lightbulb moment when you remember that all you lovely bloggers are full of culinary ideas and decide to ask for help. If you know of any way of using elderflower cordial, please leave a comment. There will of course be a winner, a snifter of our elderflower sunshine, some summer goodies will be posted off to you and Emma and I will have fun tasting all your recipes - sounds like a good idea ...