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!

Bergamots

I do love to make a new discovery and proudly present my citrus discovery for January 2018:

 

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Bergamots,

and what wonderful little gems they are.

Reliably identified as the sour orange hybrid Citrus bergamia Risso,  I discovered them at my organic market this week, imported from Morrocco (this is the only time of year where I am to be found blogging about imported produce!), and I snapped them up purely out of curiosity.

 

And I am so glad I did!

“Grapefruit overtones, a spicy galangal-like punch (which calms down once cooked), as well as orange and lemon nuancing in the background, becoming lingering lime once cooked”.

That is my bergamot sound bite.

And this is what I have done with them so far: a classic soft set marmalade of delectable dimensions 🙂

 

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Our German Gingerbread Gallery

All quiet in the orchard at this time of the year (but Hermann the German is sharpening up his specialist tree pruning saw for the winter pruning due to start any weekend now…) so we (mainly me and sometimes Mini-Kraut) have been busy in the kitchen creating some more exhibits for our gingerbread gallery.

This year’s main creation has to remain a secret for the time being until this year’s Christmas Guests of Honour have been able to peruse and applaud it live, but we have been busy baking building components for lucky recipients in the neighbourhood, complete with building instructions, in German:

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Here are a few flashbacks to past creations where we have gained all this skill and experience 🙂

2016: Recreated in gingerbread, the little village in the Wiesent Valley, close to Erlangen, where we like to spend our holidays and long weekends

 

2015: The tree house that collapsed and became a forest hideaway (Waldversteck)

 

 

 

2014The Forest Gnomes’ Railway

Snow with copyright

 

2013: Nutville, or Nußdorf in the vernacular

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2012 was when we started expanding from single buildings to gingerbread urban development:

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2011: was our very first attempt.

Lesson 1 was: make sure the roof weighs less than the walls 🙂

But it all came right on the night!

 

 

Happy Christmas!

 

Advent, Advent

Featuring four candles representing the four seasons enjoyed during the course of the year, the candles on the Advent wreath are lit one at a time on each of the four Sundays preceding the “Wend”, the Winter Solstice, now ‘Christianised’ as Christmas Eve (in Germany) or Christmas Day (in the Anglo Saxon realm).

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In our family we celebrate Advent as a four week festival of remembrance of all the good things the four seasons have brought us in the past year.

Join us on social media for a daily stroll through the seasons this Advent: TheOrchardScribe

 

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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 Glühwein 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!

Sugar & Spice & All Things Nice

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Cardamom

A fragrantly warm winter spice – I love it and the cardamom season is getting into full swing in my house where two of our top seasonal favourites flavoured with freshly ground cardamom are:

Winter Fruit & Spice Cake

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and

The BEST Gingerbread Biscuits

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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!