The lilacs are in full swing, but if you’re not careful you may miss the season! These beautiful flowers span from icy white to deep purple. The different shades each have their own meaning. White represents the innocence and purity of life. Lilac represents a first love, in fact Victorian widows were often seen wearing lilacs when they were in mourning. Dark purple represents passion and happiness.
Did you know that the Celts perceived the lilac to be magical due to its fragrance? It is also believed that it is unlucky to bring lilacs in the house, something which my own mother believes to this day!
– 2 ltr water – 60ml lemon juice or two fresh lemons – Eight raspberries – Four full blooms of lilac (any colour) – 300g sugar – 1 Teaspoon of citric acid – A pinch of wine yeast
The ingredients above will give you a lightly floral, yet zingy summer drink. You can omit the citric acid if you do not have any to hand, along with the wine yeast if you would prefer a flat beverage rather than carbonated. Lilacs do not contain natural yeast, unlike elderflowers. This recipe will make just over two 750ml bottles.
As previously mentioned, when foraging for anything try not to take more than one flower steam from each cluster. Also, avoid foraging in any areas that would have been sprayed with weed killer and have a high areas of traffic.
Firstly, put the water in the pan along with the sugar and citric acid. Make sure this has fully dissolved, then add the lemon, raspberries and wine yeast if you are using it. Let this simmer away whilst you are preparing your lilac flowers, stirring intermittently.
To prepare the flowers, all you need to do is remove them from the stem (checking for any bugs as you do so). Try to remove as much greenery as possible, although a few bits here and there will not change the flavour of the final drink. Give the flower heads a quick rinse and add them into the mixture.
Once the flowers have been added, let this simmer away on a low temperature for around half an hour; stirring every few minutes. You will then need to let this sit for a few days, so the yeast has time to work and the lilac flavour infuses with the rest of the mixture. Make sure you cover the pan with a tea towel or muslin cloth. You will know the yeast has worked when the flowers have risen.
Next you will need to strain the mixture few a muslin cloth to ensure that you don’t get any flowers or other bits in your final drink.
Now all you need to do is bottle up your drink and enjoy! This will store for a few months, but why wait that long?
The grass is a awash with dandelions and has been for a few months now. Dandelions are an important source of nectar for bees early on in the season, so try to avoid picking them until other flowers are available. Now is the perfect time to give this spring time recipe a go.
– One small trug full or 100g of dandelion petals – 100g caster sugar – 250g pectin sugar – One orange, sliced – One lemon, sliced
The ingredients and method will give you a dandelion honey that is light and golden, with hints of marmalade and flora and the consistency of a runny honey.
When foraging for dandelions, try not to take more than a couple of flower heads from one cluster. Also, avoid foraging in any areas that would have been sprayed with weed killer and have a high areas of traffic.
Firstly, you will want to rinse the dandelion heads and then separate the petals from the green base. The greenery can add a bitter taste to your honey. This isn’t an integral step, so you can skip it if you’re short on time.
Next, place your petals in a pan with one litre of water, the lemon and the orange. Let this simmer away for around half an hour. Next, you will want to add your sugar. It doesn’t matter which sugar you put in first, but make sure that you put it in the pan in small increments to ensure that it will dissolve. Bring this to the boil for around 5 minutes, constantly stirring whilst doing so. Once you have boiled the mixture, cover your pan with a muslin cloth and allow it to steep overnight.
Strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and place the liquid back in the pan. You’ll now want to reduce the mixture down to around half, or until it thickens. Start to bring the mixture to the boil, stirring as you do so. You will need to pay constant attention to your mixture whilst you are doing this to avoid burning any of the sugar granules. This may take a little while, so be patient.
Once you are happy with the consistency of your mixture take it off the boil an let it stand for around 10 minutes. Pour into your sterilised jars and let it rest overnight.
You can adjust this recipe to your taste. The orange gives you a slight marmalade twang, if you would prefer not to have this then just omit the orange and replace it with a lemon. You could also double the amount of dandelion petals if you want a more floral flavour to your dandelion honey.
Every year, millions of pumpkins are thrown away after being carved for Halloween. Pumpkins are delicious and often over looked, so here’s a simple recipe for your Jack O Lantern.
Half a small pumpkin, peeled
One small butternut squash, peeled
Two vegetable stock cubes
Two chicken stock cubes
100g of butter
Two bell peppers
Four small onions; three white and one red
Five cloves of garlic
Two teaspoons of cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
This will make six good sized portions, if you wanted to use all of the pumpkin then just double the ingredients. This will take around an hour and a half to prepare and cook.
Roughly chop your onions and garlic and place in the pan with the butter for around ten minutes, or until soft. Mix the four stock cubes into 800ml of boiling water and pour into the pan.
Dice the peppers and add into the mix. Peel and cut your pumpkin and butternut squash into chunks, adding them into the pan as you go. Once all of the ingredients are in the pan, leave on a medium heat for around 20-30 minutes, stirring intermittently.
Once the cubes of pumpkin and butternut are soft, pour the mixture into a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the soup back into the pan, adding the cinnamon, salt and pepper.
This year, we have grown some more unusual types of squash. Naturally, as it is autumn, we decided to make a tasty soup with a couple of them.
One large Uchiki Kuri, around 450g when peeled
One large Patty Pan, around 550g when peeled
80g Courgette, peeled [optional]
Three white onions
One red onion
Four cloves of garlic
One vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper to taste
Sprinkle of nutmeg
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
Half a teaspoon of cinnamon
This will make enough for four generous portions and takes approximately 45 minutes to prepare and cook.
Slice and dice the onions and crushed garlic and place them in a pan with a splash of oil to caramelise. Whilst the onion and garlic are cooking, roughly cut your squashes into cubes [2cm across].
Crumble the stock cube into 500ml of water, or you can use homemade vegetable stock if you would prefer. Put the squash and the water into the pan and simmer on a medium heat for 20 minutes or until the squash is soft.
Add the onion into the mixture and pour into a blender or food processer and blend until smooth. Once smooth, pour back into the pan and bring back up to heat. Once the soup is warm through, stir in the butter and add the seasoning.
No cream is needed for this recipe, but you could add it at this stage if you prefer. If you do not have a blender, you can use a masher (metal is the best for the task) but the soup will be of a chunky consistency.
After much trial and error, I have finally created a recipe for a lightly carbonated, delicately floral elderflower champagne. This should make six 750ml bottles.
Ingredients: – Twelve to fourteen elderflower heads – Two medium sized lemons – 600g sugar – 1 heaped teaspoon of citric acid (optional) – 4.5 litres of water plus an additional 100ml overage for any lost during the heating process.
Equipment: – A large cooking pan – Wooden spoon – Tea towel – Muslin cloth – Funnel – Ladle – Scales – Empty glass bottles, sterilised
When foraging, try not to take all of the heads from one bush.
Firstly, do not wash the elderflower heads. Give them a good shake over the sink to make sure there are no creepy crawlies remaining on your heads. Cut off as much of the green stalk as you can, as it is poisonous in large quantities.
Heat the water on the stove top. Once the water has begun to boil, pour in the sugar bit by bit and stir until it has dissolved. Once dissolved, turn down the heat to keep it hot but not boiling. Prepare and add in your sliced lemons and elderflower.
You can add the citric acid, but it is not essential. It adds a little extra sweetness and helps with preservation. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring in intervals. Place the tea towel over the pan and let it cool. Over the next three days, make sure you stir your mixture 2-3 times a day to activate the natural yeast in the elderflower.
You will know that the mixture has become carbonated once the elderflower has risen to the top of the mixture. It is now ready to be bottled!
The bottles will need to be sterilised. If you need advice on how to sterilise bottles, please see here. Pour the champagne into the bottles using a ladle and a funnel. Place the muslin over the funnel to ensure that no bits make it into your final brew.
Make sure that you burp the bottles twice a day for the first week. Leave the bottles to settle for another week before drinking so that the yeast settles at the bottom. Whilst this drink is called champagne, it is actually very low in alcohol due to the natural yeast.
If stored correctly it can last up to a year, but it is best drank within six months. Once opened, keep refrigerated an drink within three days.