Elderflowers

Its Elderflower season and with our dry sunny weather it’s the ideal time to make a batch of Elderflower Syrup, cordial or Champagne. Last year I added fresh fragrant rose petals and really loved the results. Quick and easy to make, here are a few Tips

: Strip the flowers from stems before using, I use a gloved hand as have never liked the fork method.

: Store in sterilized bottles or freeze excess syrup in silicone baking forms for later use.

:Use limes instead of lemons, unwaxed organic of course.

: For the syrup use unrefined sugar, or honey if you can.

Elderflower and rose syrup.

I find the syrup more useful than the champagne, it has no alcohol, no problems with pressure in bottles, excess can be frozen in silicone baking forms and bagged for use much later, ideal ingredient for mixing cocktails or making deserts. If you like a sparkling drink, just add tonic or sparkling water or sparkling wine.

In gredients.

20 Elderflower heads, stripped.

2 cups scented rose petals, from non sprayed roses.

2 kg unrefined sugar, or honey.

3 limes, 1 lemon, organic non waxed, zest and juice.

2 teaspoons of citric or tartaric acid.

1 and half litres water.

Put the elderflowers,a petals, juice and zest into a large bowl or bucket. Biol up about two thirds of the water, no need to be too exact, turn off heat and stir sugar into hot water till dissolved. Cool the mix with the remaining cold water and stir in the acid, Pour the lot over the flowers and cover with a clean cloth. Leave overnight, strain and bottle into sterilized bottles or freeze.

For a real summer treat, serve garnished with flowers or herbs from the garden, lemon balm, rose petals or try a sprig of Rosemary in Gin with a dash of Elderflower syrup.

For the Champagne use 10 Elderflower heads, 1 cup of rose petals and proceed as Dandelion and Gorse recipe.

Scented rose petals.

Spring flower “Champagne” and Syrup.

Spring flower Champagne. And Syrups as mixers or Desert ingredients.

If you try these recipes I would love to hear from you and of course any tips or recipes you might like to share.

The hills and countryside are rich in wildflowers now in mid may. The Fabulous almond scent of Gorse fills the air when the sun shines, there are still plenty of Dandelions to be found and I’ve spotted a few early Elderflowers. 

“Champagne” is quick and easy to make and a wonderful low alcohol drink to enjoy in the garden,a “sundowner” as they say in NSW. 

Syrups are quick and easy to make, diluted with sparkling water they are delicious, or use drizzled over deserts or breakfast pancakes. 

Tip,  gather your blossom on a sunny day if at all possible and use as soon as you get home, they will keep a few days in fridge but loose a certain amount of their fragrance.

Ingredients and equipment

  • Large container for first ferment, to hold 10 liters liquid plus the blossom (15 liter), or scale down recipe if liked. 
  • 5 liters of flower petals, Gorse, Dandelion with green removed. Elderflower, I’ve used a mix of mainly Gorse with some Dandelion and just 4 heads of Elderflower.
  • 1kg unrefined sugar.
  • Ten liters of water.
  • Zest and juice of 3 limes, 1 lemon. organic
  • ⅓ cup of cider vinegar, (or white wine vinegar) 
  • 1 sachet of champagne yeast (optional, wild yeast will do its own work) 
  • Large jug 
  • Kettle 
  • On day 4 you will also need, sieve, funnel, Muslin or other cloth for straining. Also strong swing top bottles or Plastic water bottles at a pinch.

Tip, to clean Dandelion flowers, hold by the stalk, Gather petals in other hand and twist. 

Method. 

  • Put the kettle to boil, noting how mush water you are using to fill, 1liter, 1 ½ or 2.
  • Put all cleaned blossoms into fermenting vessel along with zests, juice and vinegar. 
  • Measure sugar into the jug and pour the boiling water over stirring to dissolve. 
  • Pour the hot syrup and any remaining boiling water over the blossom and stir. 
  • Top up with remainder of water, allow to cool to room temperature. 
  • Add champagne if using, if not don’t worry, wild yeast will do it’s work.
  • Leave in a warm place for 2-4 days till the mix  bubbles
  • Tip, as soon as I have added yeast I wrap my bucket in a blanket, this helps keep the temperature constant and fermentation even.
  • On day 4, strain and bottle in strong swing-top bottles or plastic water bottles.
  • Leave 2 weeks,in a cool place, then move to fridge. 

Tip, Strain through just a sieve first,squeezing out as much liquid as possible with back of spoon. Then strain again through muslin or cotton, be patient this can take a little time. You can see from the layer at top of bottles that I did not strain mine well enough, so will empty bottles and re-strain, this won’t do any harm as it is bottled just two days and won’t loose much fizz by being re-bottled.

Flower syrup.

Delicious syrups for mixers, lemonades or deserts are quick and east to make and twice as quick to disappear, here I use a mix of Nettle and Lemon balm and as season goes on will add more recipes for Rose petals and Garden herbs.

Ingredients

  • 1 liter of nettle tops 
  • 2 handfuls of Lemon balm (or use zest and juice of 1 lime or lemon.
  • 1 liter water. 

Method.

  • Put nettle tops and lemon balm or zest and juice into bowl,
  • Boil the water and pour over,
  • Stir till sugar is fully dissolved,
  • Allow to sit for an hour covered with a clean cloth.
  • Strain, first through a sieve then muslin and bottle. 
  • Keeps in fridge for about 4 weeks. 

Nettle Beer recipe

I’m not a beer drinker but do like this one, chilled on a hot day or sitting round a bonfire at night, easy to make and ready in less than 2 weeks. Important to say you will need strong beer bottles or plastic bottles for the second fermentation. If you try this or have suggestions on how to vary I’d love to hear from you.

  • 4400Ingredients for 1kg nettles to give 12 liters of beer. 
  • 1 1/2 kg unrefined sugar,organic if possible.
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons and 2 oranges, organic.
  • 1 teaspoon of tartaric acid or 2 teaspoons cream of tartar.
  • Piece of Dandelion root, about 100gm or root ginger.
  • 2 teaspoons of brewers yeast.(you can use bread yeast if no brewers yeast available)
  • 6 liters hot water,5 liters of cold water and a kettle full (1liter)

How to,

  1. Harvesting your nettles, Tip weigh you empty collecting container and make a note of the weight, that way you can weight the full container and easily work out weight of nettles gathered. I used a large 20 liter bucket and filled it was approximately 1kg ( if a bit more all the better) Pick just the tips of nettles leaving plenty of food for the many insects which love to feed on nettles.
  2. Put 6 liters of water to boil in a big saucepan or use two if needed. Meanwhile sort through your nettles releasing any hitch-hiking insects back to the great outdoors.
  3. Slice the root, Dandelion or ginger thinly and add to water along with the tartaric acid. Add the nettles and bring to the boil stirring once or twice, allow to boil 15 mins.
  4. Meantime put sugar, zest and juice into the fermenting bucket, boil the kettle and pour contents over sugar, stir to completely dissolve sugar.
  5. Activate the yeast by placing in a cup along with a pinch of sugar, pour on half cup warm water and leave aside.
  6. When the nettles have been boiling 15 mins remove from heat and pour into the fermenting bin, add the 5 liters of cold water and give it all a good stir.
  7. Allow to cool to blood heat and then add the activated yeast.
  8. Cover with a clean cloth and leave in a warm place for 5 days.It’s best to maintain a constant temperature if possible, TIP I place the bucket on a doubled blanket and wrap the whole thing up to keep cosy. 
  9. While you are waiting for first ferment collect and clean your bottles, they can be sterilized in oven just before filling, (140 degrees cent for 20 mins) You can also use water bottles but they don’t look good and can be either too big or too small.Please do remember you need strong bottles, the swingtop kind used for many craft beers are ideal.
  10. Tip, if using clip top beer bottles, I sterilize the bottles in oven and tops including rubber seal in solution, before removing clips from bottle take a photo of them so it quick and easy to replace them correctly later.
  11. Day 5, strain beer through muslin and bottle, leave one week and it’s ready to enjoy.
  12. Share with friends.
  13. Repeat, adapt to your taste, more Dandelion? more nettle? herbs?

Roses, Elderflower and Bumble Bees

It’s almost midsummer, not that you’d notice from the weather. All the same, plenty is happening in the new kitchen and garden.

This year I’m adding Rose petals to my Elderflower champagne as suggested by Andy Hamilton, and I will try the combination in cordial also. It looks very pretty. Every dry sunny spell has me abandoning all to go gather blossoms.

Last chance for wild garlic leaves also. We have a heap of them to process today, get into jars and freeze. The new kitchen layout is working so well with lots of work space, a bright, clean look, and hot water on demand!

We have sown seeds for a new bumble bee patch of wildflowers. Seeds saved from beautiful wild meadows include Knapweed, Vetch, Selfheal, Thistle, Quaking Grass, Scabious, Trefoil and Yellow Rattle. Our hope is to introduce far more diversity of species in the wild patches, and the Yellow Rattle is partly parasitic on grass so if it grows, it will help to keep the grasses from overwhelming everything else.

Bumper Summer Harvest & Upcoming Forage Days

Bumper Summer Harvest & Upcoming Forage Days

Hi everyone, Wild Food Mary here with the lastest in Wild Food Foraging 2018.

 

Well it’s been some summer has it not!  I was blessed to have enough water to keep my vegetable gardens going and can’t eat enough tomatoes…I’ve got mountains of them. Mediterranean food nearly overtaking my gardens, in County Offaly, Ireland…love it!

Bunches and bunches of grapes. Basket after basket of soft fruit, my apple trees are straining under the weight of fruit and there are heaps of mushrooms to process, my house full of aromas from bubbling pans!

Brilliant to have such a summer, but it’s impacts have been difficult for our farmers and growers here in Ireland.

‘Tis one of the best years of food growing I’ve had and the Wild Food Forage Workshops this Autumn may well be utterly spectacular, I can hardly wait.

Join me for the end of Summer harvest on two Wild Food Forage days:

Saturday 22nd September, 10am, Crann Og Eco Farm, County Galway

Sunday 23rd September, 10am, Wild Food Mary, Clareen, County Offaly.

 

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I’m already seeing fungi popping up in the woods and fields, so I’m predicting this year’s Autumn Mushroom Picking is going to be outstanding.

It’s one of my favourite days of the year, mushroom ‘hunting’, teaching people how to find mushrooms in the wild, then watching their smiling faces as they tune-in to the fungi and literally start finding them popping up everywhwere.

But folks remember, there are so many wild mushrooms and some of them are poisonous and should not be eaten at all!  It’s really important to correctly identify your mushrooms, and equally important how you handle and store them, especially if you’re unsure which species they are.  You don’t want to be mixing poisonous mushrooms with ones you are going to eat later, that could be very bad for your health, maybe even fatal!

I’ve been a mushroom collector all my life and while I know just about all of them, still there can be doubts, as there are often similarities and only an experienced eye knows the small tell-tale differences.

That’s why I always bring to my Forage Day Workshops the best books about mushrooms. I use them during my workshops to teach and show people the differences and make correct identifications. That way we’re guaranteed to enjoy a tasty, nourishing and hearty meal at the end of our mushroom hunt.

If you’re into wild mushrooms, whether experienced or a newbie, you’re sure to find my late Autumn forages this year a great day out. You can join me at:

Saturday 13th October, 10am, Crann Og Eco Farm, County Galway

Sunday 14th October, 10am, Wild Food Mary, Clareen, County Offaly

 

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As it’s been such a warm and sunny summer I’m expecting absolute bumper harvests of wild fruits and herbs and quite possibly a mountain of fungi in October.

If you’re up for joining me and learning about wild foods, I reckon this is going to be one of the best years in recent memory for Wild Food Foraging. It’ll be great to see you there, join me for what is a great day out, educational and lots of fun.

It’s self empowering too, you will learn more about how you can harvest and eat directly from Mother Nature. I’ll show you some great ways to prepare the foods we find, interesting recipes and excellent preserves.

We’ll all eat together after our foraging, sharing a delicious meal incorporating wild foods and other organic goodies I’ll bring along from my gardens in County Offaly. Bring some friends and family too if you like, it’s a great way to learn together.

And some special treats for afterwards too, like my Award Winning Beech Leaf and Wild Damson Liqueurs, made by me, available only from select fine restaurants and liquour outlets, and of course direct from me too.

Ooh, I can hardly wait…bye for now, Wild Food Mary. xx

 

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