Orchard impressions in this month of May
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:
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).
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 🙂
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:
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!
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!
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*.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Known as meadwort in the 14th century,
meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
has been used since Chaucer’s day for flavouring wine and beer…
and it makes a fine gingerade in this day and age too.
In my recipe for Meadowsweet Syrup,
just replace the lemons with as much fresh ginger as your taste dicates to make a really refreshing gingerade awash with meadowsweet’s honey, hay and almond aromas
(approx. 2 cm of root ginger, finely chopped, will give you a gentle gingerade, add more fresh ginger if you want more of a gingery kick).
Northern hemisphere meadow magic in May: This is ribwort plantain in flower: not only a healing herb, its blossoms are
truly fairy-like and meadow-magical, don’t you think?.
If you catch the buds before they go into flower, though,
they make an interesting addition to a salad or an omlettte.
Sautéed lightly in a little olive oil and/or butter, the buds add a nutty-mushroomy flavour dimension to light spring-time meals.
Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata): a member of the Plantago family, one with a long tradition as “first aid plants”, ribwort plantain has a proven track record in treating catarrh, coughs, bronchitis and asthma. Now is the time to “harvest” it, while the leaves are fresh and green and before it goes into full blossom.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium): with an established reputation for the treatment of digestive ailments, yarrow is also said to intensify the effect of the other herbs it is used with
Elderflower (Sambucus niagra): is a diaphoretic, meaning it has the capacity to induce increased perspiration i.e. it helps you to sweat it out, whatever it is that ails you, not least fever and colds…
Snip or tear your freshly-picked herbs (ribwort plantain leaves, yarrow fronds and elderflower blossom) into 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).
Pour in the honey (ideally local and not pasteurised) – enough to completely cover the herbs and more – seal and leave to stand at room temperature for four weeks, turning the jar occasionally.
At the end of the four weeks, strain the honey into a clean jar, discarding the herbs, and use as required, either in herbal teas or direct from the jar, to combat coughs and colds.
Remember those Preserved Lemons from back in February?
Well, its May and that means its time to get them out of the cellar – the lemons are now well and truly preserved in their lemony brine and one of the things I love using them for at this time of the year is
Garlic Mustard Pesto
(alternative nut-free version here)
Preparation time: about 10 minutes
Cooking time: none
Garlic mustard (also known as
Jack by the Hedge,
or alternatively use wild garlic) 50g of leaves (and blossoms if in flower)
Lemon (organic) 1 (or 1 to 2 teaspoons of preserved lemon brine, according to taste)
Whole almonds, toasted 50g
Honey (or sugar) approx. 1 tsp
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Remove the garlic mustard leaves from the stalks, rinse and place in a liquidizer together with the toasted almonds.
2. Halve the lemon and squeeze out the juice.
3. Add the olive oil to the garlic mustard leaves and whizz together in the liquidizer.
4. Season with lemon juice (or brine), honey (or sugar), salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, whizzing thoroughly to produce a pesto-like consistency.
Preserved Lemons are also great in Garlic and Tomato Butter
Woodruff (Galium Odoratum, or Waldmeister in German)
has a long tradition here in Germany as the main ingredient for Maibowle, or May Wine, still a popular feature of May Day celebrations.
Its strong sweet scent comes from the fragrant organic chemical compound coumarin, the fragrance growing stronger as the plant wilts after picking. The coumarin content apparently increases once the plant starts to flower and, as too much coumarin can cause (instead of cure) headaches, the recommendation is that you pick your woodruff just before it goes into flower …
You will find the recipe for May Wine as featured in a delightful little cookery book I translated a couple of years ago below:
Considered the greatest painter of the Northern Renaissance, Albrecht Dürer (1471-1528) came from Nuremburg where the Albrecht-Dürer-Haus remains as a museum and memorial to the man and his times.
This little cookbook takes a look behind the scenes in the Dürer household with seasonal recipes of the kind that would have been known to Albrecht Dürer’s wife Agnes, adapted for easy cooking in the modern kitchen, a number of them having since become set features of Franconian culinary tradition: Schäufele (Roast Pork Shoulder), Krumme Krapfen (Crooked Fritters) and Storks’ Nests… Accompanied by interesting details about life at that time: what foodstuffs where available to the Nuremburg housewife in around 1500, what were the different meals served during the course of the year, and what were table manners like?
2 bunches of sweet woodruff
50 g honey or sugar
2 bottles of white wine, chilled
500 ml of light red wine, chilled
Wash the woodruff and pat dry. Tie the stems into a bunch and leave to dry overnight in a well-aired place.
Combine the honey or sugar with ½ a bottle of wine. Suspend the bunch of woodruff upside down in the wine, making sure that the ends of the stems do not come into contact with the wine. Cover and leave to draw for 30 minutes.
Remove the bunch of woodruff and pour the base wine mixture into a jug or large bowl. Add the rest of the red and white wine and serve immediately.
Agnes’ tip: oh how we enjoyed drinking this light, aromatic May wine! Sparkling wine is not something we know yet and so, instead, we simply added a light red wine to the base mixture, even though this did not make the punch sparkle, of course. For special occasions I sprinkle a few fresh wild strawberry or redcurrant leaves, as well as tarragon, sage or mint over the punch. That looks pretty and adds extra aroma.
Dürer’s Little Cookbook
Yesterday’s recipes for today’s food lovers
Compiled by Petra Teetz, Translated by Katherine Taylor, Published by ars vivendi verlag
Original edition © 2009 English edition © 2013 www.arsvivendi.com