Dandelion Sugar and Meadow Herb Salt

Even in the depths of winter I find ingredients for whizzing up salts of my own creation, and come the magical month of May it becomes a must: Mother Nature has just so much on offer from meadow to hedgerow:

P1220505 (2)

Dandelion Sugar:

P1220477 (2)

What you do:

Pick your dandelions on a dry day and leave them for an hour or so

a) for the bugs to crawl off and out and

b) so that the flowers close up again and become tassel-shapped for you to then cut of the petals just above the green bits (that way you leave out the fluffy bits where the seeds start).

P1170938

Place your petals in a food processor or blender.

Add the same quantity of fine sugar as you have petals (50% sugar, 50% petals). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your sugar mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry in the sun or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.

Once the sugar is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any lumps and store in airtight glass jars.

Use for summery things… like Summer Butter Biscuits with Dandelion Glace Icing 🙂

Meadow Herb Salt

P1220478 (2)

Using:

Ribwort plantain in May

Ribwort Plantain

Yarrow in May

Yarrow

Gundermann (2)

Ground Ivy

What you do:

Gather your herbs on a dry day: leaves only.

Add the same quantity of relatively fine pure (no additives!) salt* as you have of the herbs (50% salt, 50% herbs). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your salt mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry in the sun or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.

Once the salt is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any dried lumps and store in airtight glass jars. And yes: this salt really does have nuances of hay and herbs and meadows on warm summer days 🙂

Use for summery things… like savoury cheese scones with labneh (or cream cheese), meadow herbs salt and fresh meadow herbs – here Garlic Mustard aka Jack by the Hedge:

P1220486 (2)

Sugar and salt act as preservatives in the same way: both bind with water molecules, increasing osmotic pressue which subequently draws water out of bacteria, thus inhibiting growth. And so helping us to preserve just some of the ephemeral magic of May!

Advertisements

Blossoms, Bees, Barns & Barrels

An April free of frost is what we wanted and its what we got this year, that and a lot more too!

19_04_2015 mit Biene

The warmest April for ten years in these parts has had the orchard out in its finest floral glory and – fortunately – there are still bees there to do the pollinating.

Copy (1) of Bee pollinator

Even more fortunate, albeit long overdue and not yet enough, is the news last week of the EU’s ban on the outdoor use of imidacloprid, clothianidin and thiamethoxam i.e. the neonicotinoid pesticides that have had such a devastating impact on bee populations across Europe.

 

 

Back in the days before Bayer & Co, my German farmers’ almanac had this to say:

April warm, Mai kĂĽhl, Juni nass, fĂĽllt dem Bauer Scheuer und Fass

April warm, May cool, June wet, fills the farmer’s barn and barrel.

We’ve had the warm April, so now we wait to see whether  May fits the pattern or not…

 

Easter Tastes & Traditions

P1060153 (2)

Superstreuselkuchen

“IN ANCIENT AGRICULTURAL SOCIETIES, EGGS PROVIDED A VITAL SOURCE OF NUTRITION. BY MID-MARCH, FOOD STORES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR WOULD HAVE BEEN RUNNING LOW. THE FIRST EGGS OF THE YEAR, LAID BY DOMESTICATED FOWL OR FORAGED FROM THE NESTS OF WILD BIRDS, ADDED MUCH-NEEDED NUTRIENTS TO PEOPLES’ DIET.  …”” read more

P1170837

Hedgerow Hues & Meadow Motifs

How to colour your own Easter eggs using natural colourants and motifs: read on

Easter Wells

One of the most charming Easter traditions here in Franconia: decorating the wells and fountains with brighly coloured Easter Eggs … read more

 

As Spring follows Winter

Last autumn I made a note of the following winter words of wisdom:

7 November 2017 

The sheep were eating fresh nettles all summer even though there was plenty of grass & other greenery available. The shepherd says: means its going to be a hard winter.

Other country folk are saying that there are more hazel catkins out than is usual for the autumn: means its going to be a hard winter.

I revisted this winter forecast as the calender moved into winter proper :

16 January 2018

Casting a look back at this post from the autumn when country lore was telling us that a hard winter was ahead: no sign of it yet but then we are only a few weeks into winter so far!

P1150799

 

 

The calender now moves into spring and so, how did it look, our winter?

 

 

 

Some (very) stormy gales, a week or so of sustained ice, day and night, but very little snow – not even enough for a snowman this year :

So no, the nettles and the catkins were not signs of a hard winter this time round.

And will hopefully not be the sign of a hard spring as this is the critical season in the orchard: the trees are awakening from their winter slumber as the warmth and the light make themselves felt. Buds and blossoms become more apparent and, once the blossoms open, the last thing we need is frost, not by day and not by night.

Frozen blossoms are dead blossoms and then the (non-)harvest is a dead loss!

This March has had many bright and sunny days so far and my German country almanac tells me:

Ist März schön und hell, kommt viel Obst auf alle Fäll’.

If March is sunny and bright, there will be plenty of fruit alright.

… If it is followed by a frost-free April!

 

 

 

Ice can be nice

A further development of our ice skills during the big freeze:

When February gives you ice, make an ice bowl 🙂

(A smaller bowl inside a larger bowl, fill the gap between them with water and bits and bobs of your choice, leave outside until frozen and then remove the bowls. Prerequisite: outside temperatures do not spike above 0°C for days on end!)

P1220023 (2)P1220036P1220037

Lovely lichens & marvellous moss

Our dead wood hedge in the orchard is part of the circle of life in the micro-ecosystem that a traditional meadow orchard is.

P1210980

Pruning and clearing (of invaders and insurgents from the surrounding forest and farmland that then compete with the fruit trees for space and resources if left unchecked – pines and poplars are the main offenders) ensure regular replenishment:

P1170772

And so the hedge grows with the years,

P1170754P1210234

providing a home to many a feathered and furry orchard resident

Robin

Blackbird Male

and,

as the wood ages further,

turning into a veritable treasure trove of lichens and moss:

P1210983P1210985P1210987

P1220014

 

Citrus Salts

I have been whizzing up all sorts of citrus & veggies into delectable gourmet citrus salts. So quick, so easy, and a good way to make use of small quantities of tasty things – and then you have a whole flavour bank to choose from while cooking up a storm!

What you need:

Small quantities of vegetables such as celeriac (especially forgotten celeriacs starting to dry out in the veggie basket!), parsnips, garlic (can’t have enough of it) and onions, herbs of all kinds to suit your taste.

One and twos of oranges, lemons, limes…whatever you can get your hands on, even bergamots of you are lucky enough to have them.

Relatively fine grained, pure (no additives!) salt*.

What you do:

Peel/skin and roughly chop your collection of vegetables and place them in a food processor or blender.

Add the zest of whatever citrus you are using and some of the juice if you like – not too much, though, otherwise your salt mixture will take ages to dry out again.

Add the same quantity of relatively fine pure (no additives!) salt* as you have of the other ingredients (50% salt, 50% other ingredients). Whizz everything up together until you have a fine, even mix. Spread your salt mixture out thinly on a large baking tray or similar and either leave to dry on the heating or in the oven at 50°C, with a wooden spoon holding the oven door ajar, for 2-3 hours.

Once the salt is completely dry, whizz it again in the food processor to break up any dried lumps and store in airtight glass jars.

My current combinations:

Lemon & Lime & Garlic & Celeriac Salt

Bergamot & Orange & Garlic & Celeriac & Parsley salt

Lemon & Parsnip & Parsley & Garlic Salt

being used to flavour everything from soups & salads, pastry & breads to mains & sides.

*salt: quality matters here and I prefer rock salt over sea salt, on account of us having allowed microplastic to have completely pervaded our oceans: up to 1800 microgramms of microplastic per kilogram of Fleur du Sel, for example, detected in a study published in January 2018 by scientists at the University of Oldenburg, Germany.