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.
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.
Here’s a simple recipe to use up some of your pumpkin glut. This will make enough for four large portions.
Ingredients: – 900g of roughly chopped and peeled pumpkin – one large red onion – one parsnip – one carrot – one large potato – three cloves of garlic – 150ml of double cream – Two vegetable or chicken stock cubes – 1tsp cinnamon – 1tsp nutmeg – 1tsp paprika – salt and pepper to taste
Place the chopped carrot, onion, garlic, parsnip and potato in a pan with some water to cover, let the vegetables soften for around 10-15 minutes. Add the pumpkin and let it simmer for another 5-10 minutes and remove from the heat. Drain the water from the pan and then add the stock mixture. For extra flavour, we added one vegetable stock cube and one chicken stock cube. Allow this to simmer for around 20-30 minutes.
Put the softened vegetables and stock mix into a blender. Blend until smooth. Follow up with the double cream and blend until you are satisfied with the consistency.Put the soup back in the pan and gently heat.
If you do not have a blender, you can use a masher. Remove the pan from the heat and mash the mixture until you are satisfied. Stir in the double cream and place back on the hob to warm through.
If you want, you can roast the pumpkin seeds for an extra crunch. Rinse the seeds in cold water and then place the seeds on a clean tea towel to take off the excess moisture. Put them in a bowl with the seasoning of your choice; we used 1tsp of cinnamon and 1tsp of paprika. Add 1tsp of olive oil and mix the seasoning and pumpkin seeds until they are coated. Put them on a baking tray at 180°c, checking every 5 minutes until they are crispy. Ours took around 15-20 minutes.
I love this recipe with a chunky slice of homemade bread.
Here is a simple recipe for a small batch of mixed jam. This should make two jars or about 700g-750g of jam.
Ingredients: – 200g of strawberries – 200g of raspberries – 200g of granulated sugar – 180g of pectin sugar – 50ml of lemon juice
Equipment: – Two metal pans, one for the jam and one for sterilising the jars – Two jars – A wooden spoon – A slotted spoon – Tongs – A saucer (to test your setting point) – A wooden cutting board – Cellophane – Wax discs
Firstly, put your saucer in the fridge, you will need this later. Wash the berries thoroughly and trim off any stems. Cut the strawberries in half, the raspberries can be left whole.
Place the strawberries in the pan with the granulated sugar, once the strawberries begin to break down add in the pectin sugar and raspberries. You can mash the strawberries if you wish to speed up the process and have a smoother jam. Raspberries also break down a lot quicker, thus needing less time in the pan. Remember to stir your mixture as it breaks down. Once the sugars have dissolved, add in the lemon juice and raise the temperature of your stove to eventually bring to a boiling point. Skim off any scum with the slotted spoon that may be on the surface. It is okay if you cannot remove it all, a little won’t hurt. Boil for around 8-10 minutes.
Take the saucer out of the fridge and dab about a teaspoons worth of jam onto it. Place it back into the fridge and leave for a minute or two. If it crinkles on the saucer when it is touched, it has reached setting point. If not, place your mixture back on the boil for another 2-3 minutes. Add a little more pectin sugar if you feel that your mixture needs it.
Once you have reached setting point, take the mixture off the boil and allow to rest. You can now begin to sterilise your jars. You will need to bring your jars to the boil, making sure they are fully submersed in water. Allow them to boil for a few minutes. Turn off the heat and use the tongs to pick the jars out of the pan and drain the water, place them on side. It would be best to place them on a wooden board to protect your counter from the heat. Do not let the jars cool too much when potting your jam, it is best done when the jars have just come off the boil but do be careful not to burn yourself. This limits the amount of time the jars can come into contact with bacteria.
Pour in your mixture and then place a wax disc on top of it, then cover the top of the jar with cellophane. Screw the lid on and label your jars.