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It being February, there really isn’t much to be done out in the garden apart from marking out the beds to be dug and making endless hopeful lists of seeds and plants to be bought, but that doesn’t mean that a great deal of fun can’t be had experimenting in the kitchen!  Recently I’ve been having a lot of fun creating recipes for infused wine vinegars, and this morning I made up a batch of two of the most recent ones, one sweet and one savoury.

Rosemary and Garlic Vinegar

Ingredients:

At least two large cloves of fresh garlic

A generous dessert spoon of dried or fresh rosemary

A few peppercorns

Red wine vinegar

Rosemary and Garlic Vinegar

Rosemary and Garlic Vinegar

This is really simple to make!  Just peel and chop the garlic cloves – bash them with a knife if you want to, first – and pop them into a jar or wide necked bottle.   Give the rosemary a good bashing in a mortar and pestle and then pile that in as well, then add a few peppercorns – I used white ones this time as I happened to have whole ones in the cupboard.  I didn’t bash them first for this recipe as I don’t want too much of a punchy pepper kick in the vinegar, though I may crush them next time just to see if it makes any difference!   Lastly, pour some red wine vinegar over the mangled herbs and put the lid on.  This lot will be left to steep for at least a week, more like two, and in fact there is a strong chance that I will just leave it all in the bottle and pour off the vinegar as and when needed.  I suspect this blend will be delicious stirred into cous cous or quinoa.

Sweet Rose Geranium & Vanilla Vinegar

Ingredients:

Fresh rose geranium leaves – a good handful.

1 Clove

1 small piece of vanilla and a good two heaped spoonfuls of vanilla sugar if you have it.  If not, try vanilla essence and raw cane sugar instead.

Ingredients!

Ingredients!

Chop the rose geranium leaves and pile into the bottle, along with the single clove and the sugar and piece of vanilla pod.

Chop the rose geranium leaves and pile into the bottle, along with the single clove and the sugar and piece of vanilla pod.

Pour on the red wine vinegar! Pop the stopper in, swirl around to disperse the sugar a little, then leave for at least two weeks.

Pour on the red wine vinegar! Pop the stopper in, swirl around to disperse the sugar a little, then leave for at least two weeks.

I’m going to use white wine vinegar for this recipe next time, but for this time at least, I am working on the theory that rose geranium is such a punchy flavour that it should work with the red wine flavour rather well.   It may be that I will want to add more sugar to this after it has finished steeping, though.   This one could be added to fruit salad, trickled over ice cream or used as a dipping vinegar for fresh bread.

I also started a batch of garlic oil this morning – I’m happy to post a recipe for that if folks want one!

I’ll report back in a week or two about the final flavour of these two recipes!  Next up will be various chai experiments! :)

Back, at Long Last!

Morning all!!  Here at long last is the resurrected blog of the Eldrum Tree – sorry it has been such an age since I posted last, but life rather ran away with me for a while there.  Here we are, however, in a new year and a new home, having moved house three weeks ago to a property out on top of the Wolds, with a lovely large garden, wooded area and plenty of space for herbs and plants, which means that this year I will have LOTS MORE to blog about, as I set up the first proper herb garden I have had in years, and really get back to basics with the herbs.  Hopefully this will produce loads of exciting recipes for you all to try, plus more musings, poetry, pretty pictures and creative endeavours.  In the meantime, here is the first new concoction of the year that you may all enjoy trying!

Dandelion, Burdock and Lemon

Dandelion, Burdock and Lemon

Dandelion Burdock Early Spring Cleanser

You will need:

2 heaped dessert spoons of dandelion root

2 heaped dessert spoons of burdock root

2 large slices of lemon, chopped into strips

1 teaspoon of honey

1 pint of water

Just put all the ingredients except the honey into a pan and simmer for ten minutes, adding the sugar once you’ve taken the mixture off the hob.  You can drink this mixture hot or cold – its a really pleasant drink either way, but is certainly more refreshing drunk cold.  I’m going to try this with slices of fresh root ginger in the next batch, as well as some dandelion leaf!   The nice thing about this mix is that you can boil the ingredients back up with another pint of water for a slightly less punchy but just as refreshing mixture, then compost the remaining herbs.

Dandelion Burdock Early Spring Cleanser

Dandelion Burdock Early Spring Cleanser

Hawthorn Shenanigans

Today a student and I went out picking hawthorn berries with the intent of making a spicy hawthorn berry ketchup with the resulting harvest. After a good hour of picking, we had finally got together enough berries to make the recipe possible and headed back to the kitchen – fairly slowly, as it has suddenly gone warm here again. Between us, we built on an existing recipe and came up with the following concoction:

Hawthorn berries

Hawthorn berries

 Sweet and Spicy Hawthorn Ketchup

Ingredients:

1kg hawthorn berries, washed and destalked (you don’t need to be too obsessive about this – as long as you are fairly careful not to get too many stalks while you are picking, you should be ok with a few left in)

600mls vinegar – we used 500mls red wine vinegar and 100ml malt vinegar

400mls water

270g organic raw cane sugar

a sprinkle of pink salt

a sprinkle of cinnamon

a good shake of black pepper

½ tsp medium curry powder

a sprig of dried rosemary

½ tsp garlic granules

This was very easy indeed to make – put the berries into the pan with the water and bring to a simmer. Add the vinegar and rosemary and simmer a bit more, then mash thoroughly. Add the sugar, simmer for another half hour, then bring to a boil for five minutes before turning off. Push the whole lot through a sieve and then put the resulting liquid back onto the heat. Add the salt and spices to taste, bring back to the boil for a few minutes, then bottle. This did not gain us a huge amount of ketchup – enough for one bottle each, so the recipe yielded about 600mls all in all, so yes, rather labour intensive, but very tasty indeed, and there is something very peaceful about picking hawthorn berries – a job that I will welcome on cooler days.

No idea how long this ketchup will keep, but its so moreish that I suspect it won’t stay in the bottle for long!!

Happy foraging, everyone, and Mabon blessings!

The weather has cooled right down here just recently, though it still feels a little close at times – a series of thunderstorms took the worst of the heat out of the air, and the fields are now heading towards harvest, if we get enough dry days together in order for them to do so.  Out in the hedgerows, I’ve been out checking how the plums and damsons are ripening up, and we’ve got what looks to be a bumper crop to expect at the end of the month.  The blackberries are starting to ripen up as well, so the first lots of blackberry jelly and blackberry wine will be on the brew soon.   Today, however, I have been playing with blackcurrants, which are currently in season and doing beautifully!

Bramley apples and blackcurrants

Bramley apples and blackcurrants

Bramley and Blackcurrant Fruit Cheese

I’ve never made fruit cheese before, so this has been a real experiment.   Very easy to make, but don’t take your eye off it for more than about five minutes during the second stage, as it sticks and burns really easily!

You will need:  At least two large bramley apples (I used four, and it was actually too big a batch, with hindsight)

300g of blackcurrants

2 lemons

a tiny bit of water

Instructions:

Peel and core the apples, then roughly chop them and put them into a heavy based pan, along with the cleaned and de-stalked blackcurrants, the zest and the juice of the two lemons and a tiny bit of water.  By tiny bit, I mean no more than about three tablespoons worth.  Put on a low heat and simmer it for at least an hour until the apples fragment and dissolve.  Push the whole lot through a sieve – you should only have about a tablespoon of pulp left over as the rest should go through the sieve easily.   Measure out how much pulp you have, and add an equivalent amount of granulated sugar.  I like to use raw organic cane sugar or fairtrade sugar if possible!

Stewed fruit, just before the sugar was added!  This lot turned a gorgeous rich red brown once the sugar was added and it had been boiled a while.

Stewed fruit, just before the sugar was added! This lot turned a gorgeous rich red brown once the sugar was added and it had been boiled a while.

Put the pulp and sugar on a low heat and stir until the sugar has dissolved, then simmer for at least an hour.   According to the recipe I was following, the pulp should get to the point where it is semi solid in the pan, but mine didn’t – maybe something I’ve done wrong, but since the finished product has not finished setting yet, it is too soon to tell!  I poured some of the pulp into jars part of the way through cooking, so that it makes a fairly firm fruit butter.  The rest got put back into the pan and boiled thoroughly for a while longer, then poured into a greased pottery dish.  I’ve let it cool and it has just been put in the fridge.   The plan will be to slice it, dust it in icing sugar and then wrap the slices in greaseproof paper.  It should keep for up to 12 months, and is lovely either on its own or with a good, strong cheese.

Better yet, the cores and peel can be put into a covered pot with some water and then left in a cool, dark place for a few weeks, to make the first batch of this year’s cider vinegar!

Oh, and just to end things off with – here are the latest two hare stencil designs!

Harvest Hares!

Harvest Hares!

The temperatures are finally easing up a little after a good few weeks of hot weather, and last night brought heavy rain with the latest of the thunderstorms lighting the sky with silver, the sound of horses galloping in the heavens resounding everywhere. The herbal harvest proceeds apace, with Limeflowers (Tilia europaea) in baskets everywhere, drying and filling the house with their soporific fragrance, as well as the last of the rose petals next to the fireplace, plus leaves and flowers of Rosebay Willowherb drying for teas. Recently I have been busily making a fair few infused oils – this time I made two different batches of rose petal and am currently working on my second batch of St John’s Wort flower, which is busily loving the sun and turning a glorious rich red colour.

 

With the two rose oils, I’ve done two different batches – one lot was done using mostly dried petals, in the double boiler, on the hob, and the other was done using sun infusion, put in a jam jar on the table in full sunlight. So far, the sun infused version is definitely the more fragrant of the two, however I’ve got my suspicions that it will not last long as it is very cloudy. No surprise there, as fresh rose petals do have a rather high water content! Still, it has been fun to experiment with, and I will post more information once I have filtered the second of the two oils. The meadowsweet is currently flowering as well, and makes a really fantastic oil for sore muscles and joints – I shall be making copious amounts of it once the meadowsweet has dried out from last night’s rainstorm!

 

Chopped Picota cherries

Chopped Picota cherries

I’ve also started the first batch of cherry brandy off, ready for the Yuletide season – next up will probably be damson gin, and possibly some plum brandy as well as the local trees look as though they will have a bumper crop on this year, especially if we keep getting plenty of rain!

Cherry Brandy

You will need at least two punnets of cherries, two heaped tablespoons of sugar (I used raw organic cane sugar) plus a bottle of cheap brandy. Own brand from the supermarkets is usually just fine. This is very simple to make, simply cut the cherries in half, remove the stones and pile them into a clean kilner jar. Sprinkle the sugar on top, then pour over the brandy. I added a stick of cinnamon as well so this should have a lovely rich, warm flavour once it has finished brewing. Put the lid on the jar, shake up thoroughly and leave to infuse for at least two weeks. The fruit can be saved for puddings, pies and stewed fruit once the brandy has been filtered, and is just delicious on its own! I may even try putting them onto cocktail sticks and dunking them into melted chocolate, then leaving them to set!

 

Cherry brandy, already beginning to turn a beautiful red colour

Cherry brandy, already beginning to turn a beautiful red colour

Lately I’ve been trying a few new recipes, the latest of which has been an adaptation of the pickled ash keys recipe from the Hedgerow Handbook. I’ve noted down here what I did, and will report back on the resulting flavour in about 6 weeks time, when they have had time to soak and mature a little!

 

Ash keys, ready for preparation.

Ash keys, ready for preparation.

Pickled Ash Keys

You will need:

For the Vinegar – white malt vinegar, at least 500mls. Two tbsp medium curry powder, one heaped tbsp smoked paprika, one heaped teaspoon of salt, one level tbsp organic raw cane sugar (found this in my local health food shop.)

For the ash keys – two tbsp salt, lots and lots and lots of water, at least 400g of fresh green ash keys (the younger the better), plus between two and four large garlic cloves, 12 mustard seeds, 10 white peppercorns.

This is a fairly labour intensive recipe – the ash keys need to be stripped from their stems and thoroughly washed, then put into a pan with plenty of water and boiled for 20 minutes. Rinse, replace the water with a load of fresh stuff, then boil again for another 20 minutes. This needs to be repeated four times in all, and then strain and add more water, plus the salt. Boil thoroughly for 15 minutes, then simmer for an hour, keeping the pan covered. The ash keys should start to soften. While the ash keys are boiling for the first 20 minutes, put the malt vinegar and spices into a pan, bring to the boil and then simmer for ten minutes before setting the whole thing aside to cool.

...Toil and Trouble... I just hope the results are worth it!

…Toil and Trouble… I just hope the results are worth it!

Once the ash keys have finished their cooking, put them into the pan with the strained vinegar, bring to the boil and simmer for ten minutes, then leave to cool. Spoon the ash keys into a clean jar and pour the vinegar on top, then lid tightly. These need to be left to mature for 6 weeks in a cool, dark place before eating, more if possible.

Feedback so far on this recipe – I deliberately used milder spices because I don’t much care for really spicy foods, and the vinegar and spice mix smelled amazing! Despite repeated boiling and simmering, the ash keys were still rather tough even when they were ready for putting into the jar, so I don’t know how good this particular batch will be. It is possible that I just needed to pick smaller ash keys, but its worth leaving them for 6 weeks I think and just see how things turn out!

Midsummer Roses

Japanese Rose, or Rosa rugosa

Japanese Rose, or Rosa rugosa

Summer has finally arrived here, with skies of the palest blue, brilliant sunshine and increasing levels of heat – which means that for me at least, outdoor activities are kept to a minimum during the heat of the day, and walks and herb gathering takes place in the evening instead. Recently I have been doing rather a lot with rose petals, with baskets of them drying all round the living room at present. I’m lucky, really, as I have access to both the highly scented Rosa rugosa and also several kinds of briar rose, from the lightly fragranced eglantine (Rosa rubiginosa) to the traditional, generally unscented dog roses (Rosa canina). I love roses, more and more as I grow a little older, but do tend to prefer the old, traditional varieties – hedging roses, and types like Rosa gallica, the Apothecary’s Rose. I thought I’d list a few rose recipes I’ve been playing with recently, with instructions, for any of you lovelies who might still have access to rose petals – act fast, as they are starting to go over, here in Lincolnshire! Their place is being taken by the delightfully fragrant Limeflower (Tilia europaea) which, like the roses themselves, is remarkably late flowering this year, but the bees are currently adoring it.

Eglantine Rose, or Sweet Briar

Eglantine Rose, or Sweet Briar

 

Rose Petal Wine

You will need:

4 Litres of water

at least 2 pints of loosely packed rose petals – more is good if you like a stronger rose flavour (which I do).

Approximately 1.5kilos of sugar if you want a fairly sweet wine. The last one I made turned out delightfully dry, which is lovely for summer, but I wanted the latest batch to be sweeter for drinking mid winter.

Rose flower water if preferred.

Dessert and High Alcohol wine yeast.

Yeast nutrient if preferred.

Instructions:

Rose petal wine is really very simple to make! Simply boil the first couple of pints worth of water, put into the pan with the fresh rose petals (you can use dried – you get a more intense flavour from those, so partly drying them first makes sense if you have time.) Stir up the petals and water, then cover with a teatowel and leave to cool. I like to keep adding rose petals over the course of the next two or three days, stirring regularly to extract the most colour and fragrance from them. This is good because if you heat the petals too much, the flavour will evaporate off and the resulting wine, while still pleasant, won’t be quite so lovely. Filter out the rose petals and return the liquid to the pan, adding the sugar and warming through just enough to dissolve the sugar – you should not need to heat it too much in order to do this. Cool down, activate the yeast and add to the liquid, along with yeast nutrient if preferred.

Decant the liquid into a clean demi john, add a bung and air lock and label. Leave to ferment to a finish. This tends to take anything between 3 and 6 weeks, I find – in the summer things ferment quite a bit faster because the temperature is warmer. I sometimes like to add rose water to my rose petal wine – add as much or as little as you like before you add the wine to the demi john. The last lot I made had none in, but I added a few rose geranium leaves instead. The batch before that had the equivalent of about 2 tablespoons of rose water in, and that really intensified the flavour beautifully!

 

Drying rose petals

Drying rose petals

Rose Petal Vodka

This is very simple indeed to make – simply mix rose petals with vodka and sugar to taste, put the whole lot into a kilner style jar and leave for a couple of weeks. If there is no air allowed to get to the petals, you should end up with a delightfully pink liqueur. If you want to make a tincture version of this, then simply omit the sugar and use plenty of extra rose petals. The tincture can be taken in doses of approximately 5mls up to three times a day. More on rose’s medicinal virtues in a forthcoming post.

Rose and Cider Vinegar toner

I have some trouble at times with redness and spots, and this toner clears things up beautifully! It is very simple to make, and you can make it up easily at this time of year using fresh rose petals. Simply put the rose petals into a jar and cover with home made cider vinegar, then leave to steep for a couple of weeks. Filter out the rose petals, and add an equivalent amount of rose water. This can be used after cleansing to tighten and even out complexion, reduce the appearance of spots and clear redness from the skin.

 

Hedge roses

Hedge roses

 

…Which should probably be called Alchemical April or something like that, as it is no longer March!  Still feels like it though, still very cold outside with a chilly winter wind that has teeth in it.  Warmer weather is on its way though, and the daffodils are flowering, and in other news I finally finished (I think) my poem ‘Once’ – the first draft was posted in Mythic March Part One, but I’ve done quite a bit of work on it since then and am reasonably happy with the finished poem!  (Or as happy as I ever am with my poetry anyway, being usually convinced of its poor quality…)

———————————————————-

Taken last April.  Odd given that the buds haven't even opened yet this year...

Taken last April. Odd given that the buds haven’t even opened yet this year…

Once

 

Once, garbed in hope and youthful dreams,

naïve in velvet and silk, and lace at my cuffs,

I dared your forests, the rose and bramble that

barred my path, walled you in, or so I thought.

The forest pared me down to muscle, ivy

twined around tree trunk bones, and

my youthful bravado was left by the wayside, a sword

encased in stone, brambles

claiming pieces of me as I passed.

I did my fools dance to twig snap and birdsong,

moon struck, moon guided,

my once vaunted finery torn, as I slowly

became woods creature adorned with blood and sap,

time and the weary miles already travelled,

the colours that marked me a stranger in a strange land

left on tree branches and thorns,

bargained away to the witch in her cave,

or given to the stranger by the wayside,

and I’ve pitched gladly down rabbit holes,

chased ravens, and

sung with blackbirds, wild and crazy.

My velvets have metamorphosed into moss and myth, treeish;

the language of plants on my tongue, and

as I’ve observed spells in the owl’s flight

the passage of time and trees has consumed all, eternal,

moments and days flying by on the wings of birds,

leaves on the wind.

 

These lessons have I learned, reluctantly at first -

how to see the jewel in a toad’s eye, and

leap with the salmon.

How to dance with foxes and sing their song while

still hearing my own.

The taste of tears like rain in all it’s seasons,

and the feel of callouses on my hands and feet.

The mark of corvids by my eyes,

gained by long weeks of scouring these woods, always for you.

And when, at long last, I

walked out of this forest, claiming pieces of myself

from tree and thorn, and

trying to regain the name I once had, I

arrived at your sleeping palace, no longer a prince, but instead

huntsman, seer, wizard;

those arched, mythic gates opened wide, and

you greeted me – wide awake, sunrise in your eyes – and said

‘At last, here is a fit mate

for the Queen of the Perilous Wood.’

And I realised that you were never asleep at all, never lost,

never in need of rescue.

It was always I.

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