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:

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Dandelion Sugar:

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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).

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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

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Using:

Ribwort plantain in May

Ribwort Plantain

Yarrow in May

Yarrow

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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:

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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!

Easter Tastes & Traditions

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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

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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

 

More Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice

For those of you who do not already know it, meet:

Galangal

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Think: mild ginger with a soupcon of camphor and a peppery punch if you use lots of it!

A root related to ginger, widely used in Far Eastern cookery, and described by German medieval medicine woman Hildegard of Bingen as “warm and healing”, particularly for those suffering from “heartache”.

For those with a bad back she recommends GlĂĽhwein with galangal.

In the kitchen Hildegard of Bingen paired galangal with quinces (as well as with pumpkin, fruit salads, jams in general and marinades).

Clearly a lady after my own heart and so I have followed her example: the very last of this years’ quinces have become

Quince Jelly with Galangal

And what a very good idea that was: love it!

If you are quick you can get a jar with a subscription from our Online Orchard Shop – limited edition!

The Fragrant Pantry is here!

First they brought us: 

The Scented Kitchen

 Then came:

The Floral Baker

and now comes:

The Fragrant Pantry

(click on the links for more – you won’t regret it!)

Thank you Frances Bissell and Serif Books!

Sloe Gin Time

This post is for Chris & Debbie, gin connoisseurs of note. You know who you are!

Sloe Gin glass with copyright

The season of mists and mellow fruitfulness will soon be making way for frosts and mellow indulgence: get the sloe gin going in time for you-know-what (begins with C…) 🙂

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  • Pick as many sloes as you fancy (either after the first frosts or when ripe and then freeze overnight before using – the freezing/frost breaks down the sugar in the fruit making it easier to release its flavour).
  • Prick them all over with a pin.
  • Pour a bottle of gin into a large (sterilised) jar with lid (or two large jars), add the sloes together with one (or more depending on your taste) slit vanilla pod.
  • Leave in a cool, dark place for at least 6 weeks (can be left for much longer too) before filtering and bottling. Will keep indefinitely and matures with age.

Cheers!

 

 

Cherry plums versus mirabelles

To blog on or not to bother?

I have decided to carry on bothering.

Because, in recent years, much of what I have assimilated and implemented in the place where I am has come from a very broad band of bloggers.

People who bother to blog. In whatever language. All of them blogging out of conviction and only the very thin minority blogging for remuneration of the financial kind.

I owe much to bloggers and have become convinced of the role (to be) played by alternative media in presenting  another side of any story. Because there are always two sides to every story. Which does not have to mean subscribing to either version but at least they point toward the third version: your opinion/independent thought/questions asked. Call it what you will, it is a real rarity where I am, both in time and place. George Orwell, Aldous Huxley: say no more.

And say no more I shall on this blog because I shall continue to keep politics out of it. Apart from the fact that the production and procurement of food have long since become a political act. Whether you realise it or not.

I digress.

As a promoter of pomology past and present it is time to set the record straight on cherry plums and mirabelles. I know, right up there on top of everyone’s priority list…!

The thing is, I keep hearing (town) folk here banging on about the mirabelles being ripe. In July.

And when I (the foreigner with still slightly accented German who is supposed to be a translator by profession, and not a wannabe fruit farmer – very unGerman, diverging from the trodden path…), presume to tell them that its the cherry plums that are ripe now, in July, I get told: “well, they look like mirabelles”.

Aaah… no.

Cherry Plums (Prunus cerasifera)

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Ripen as early as the beginning of July, occuring in both red and yellow.

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The very first of the stone fruit to blossom in the spring.

 

 

 

Slightly milder than mirabelle plums, their stones are smaller and yellow cherry plums are far more uniform in colour than mirabelles. Cherry plums are great for snacking on or for use in summer fruit salads. They make a very good purée, too (much less acid than some of the later plum varieties) and I also juice them as the basis for mulled beverages in the autumn and winter.

 

Mirabelle Plums (Prunus domestica subsbp. syriaca)

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They ripen only in late August, early September and have distinctive “red cheeks” where the sun catches them.

Somewhat stronger in characteristic flavour than cherry plums, mirabelles are a good preserving fruit (although also great eaten straight from the tree on a later summer’s day), and very popular with schnaps distillers. Which I am not, so my mirabelles end up in bakes and purĂ©es – where they are reminiscent of their prunus relative, the apricot (Prunus armeniaca).

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Quince Inspiration

It is that wonderfully fragrant time of year again 🙂

Its always a bittersweet task, rounding up my favourite quince recipes for the quince harvest, but the quinces do make a wonderful conclusion to the orchard year!

My firm favourite first up (click on the links for the recipes):

Candied Quince with Ginger

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This is a famous recipe this one is, featuring as it does in The Edible City, a kind of urban kindred spirit to this blog, written by London’s foremost forager, John Rensten, and published this last September by Pan Macmillan.

And what a classy publication this is (and not just because John features my Candied Quince with Ginger!). Beautifully illustrated by Gwen Burns, it features foraged food fit for a feast from a man whose “green vision” I can totally relate to:

Once turned on, your ‘green vision’ will be impossible to turn off: otherwise neglected street trees will suddenly bear fruit, patches of previously irrelevant land will become focal points and the city will reveal a network of free, edible treats, coming and going throughout the year.”

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 My other firm favourites during the quince season include:

 Quince and Honey Sorbet

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Quince Chutney

Quince Confectionery

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and of course

Quince Liqueur

Happy quince season everyone!

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The King’s Candles

… or Verbascum, and sometimes mullein, as this genus (Verbascum, of which there are some 350 species…) is known in English.

I do think, though, that the German Königskerze does for more justice to this plant which becomes truly regal when it flowers in July:

14_07_2013 Königskerzen

Favouring dry, sandy soils in the sun (and therefore often to be found flourishing on wasteland), the Königskerze is not only regal, it has a tradition of healing dating back to Hippocrates. The plant has distinct emollient, demulcent and astringent properties and, while Hippocrates reccommended it for the external treatment of wounds, the Königskerze went on to develop a tradition of treating coughs, colds and respiratory complaints.

The flowers have robust, fleshy petals making them difficult to dry and so one of the best and easiest ways of extracting their healing properties is to use them to make an infused honey in readiness for the onset of autumn and winter:

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1) You need to pick the flowers on a dry day, either in the morning or in the evening, not in the heat of the day, and only pick the blossoms fully open. You need to use the blossoms immediately (they will wilt and start to turn brown within hours otherwise) so make sure you have a sterilised jar (I fill the jar with boiling water direct from the kettle and leave it to stand for at least 5 minutes before using) and the honey with you.

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2) Place your blossoms directly into your sterilised jar, enough to fill the jar, pour in the honey, seal and rotate the jar a good couple of times to make sure all of the blossoms are covered in a coating of honey.

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3) Leave to infuse at room temperature for about 2 weeks. At the end of the infusing, strain the honey into a clean, sterilised jar for storage and/or immediate use either directly as a teaspoonful of honey medicine for ailing children, or to sweeten herbal teas.