Thursday, 26 July 2012

Elderflower: Joys & Disasters

As we haven't had much of a summer here in the UK - apart from the past four days it has been exceptionally cold for this time of the year and it's been raining more than usual - everything is very delayed. I've only just picked my first strawberry (singular!) yesterday. So it comes as no surprise that the elders are flowering rather late. I went to pick my first batch at the beginning of this month, at a time when its usually finished flowering and I could barely find any because it hadn't even started properly.


I found enough to make a big batch of low sugar cordial, which tastes great, but due to the low sugar it doesn't need much diluting which means using a lot of it rather quickly.

I dried several heads in my food dehydrator to add to summery tea bags I'm planning on making later this year. I managed to yield quite a lot of dried blossoms but at the expense of the entire house smelling of cat wee = disaster #1


After I had used up all the flowers from my first batch I had a brain wave: Elderflower Ice Cream! So I went out to get a few more, so I could experiment with it. I wrote down what I did in case it worked out. Oh and I tell you it did work out - it's soooooo yummy. As I have a tendency of losing my random scribbles I'm going to write down here how I went about for my own reference, but please go ahead an try it yourself, it's worth it - I promise. If you live in the UK it might not be too late yet for this year, although the last warm four days may have sped nature up a bit. Anyway, this is what you do:

- take 6 small heads of elderflowers
- shake them lightly to get rid of any insects, but not too much, so you don't lose the lovely pollen
- get rid of any brown blossoms as this is what gives it the cat wee smell
- add the flowers to 200ml full fat milk
- slowly warm up the milk with the flowers on a low heat to infuse it with elderflower flavour (do not allow to boil)
- as soon as you notice any blossoms turning brown take the mixture of the heat
- cool down rapidly to avoid further browning by placing your pan in a sink with cold water
- strain the milk through a fine sieve
- whip 200ml of double or whipping cream
- mix 2 egg yolks and the finely grated rind of one unwaxed lemon + 70g of caster sugar until fluffy
- mix the egg mixture, cream and infused milk
- pour into your ice cream maker and churn for 30 minutes (if you don't have an ice cream maker place the mix into your freezer and fluff it up with a fork every half hour or so to avoid any crystals from forming until the right consistency is reached)

Enjoy with fresh strawberries.


The following weekend I set off again to get more elderflowers and was slightly more successful when it came to quantities.
I made another batch of cordial - this time a naughty sugary version which should last much longer as you only need a small amount to dilute it.
I started a gallon of elderflower wine which is still happily bubbling away and I tried to make some elderflower champagne, which brings me to disaster #2
As recommended in most recipes you can find on the internet I filled the semi-fermented concoction into ugly screw-top plastic bottles. I only filled them 3/4 full and squeezed out all the air to allow for some expansion when the gas develops. I did toy with the idea of releasing some pressure when the bottles turned very hard, but in the end I never did - fatal mistake! I got a call at work from Jamie telling me about some big explosions coming from our kitchen. Big explosions isn't even an exaggeration as the force of the pressure blew the cupboard door of its hinges, flooded the entire kitchen with sticky liquid and causing the landlord to come running over to see whether the house was still standing! It took all of our bathroom towels to clean up the mess, they then had to be boil-washed to get rid of the stickiness, parts of the walls had to be re-painted and for days our kitchen smelled like a brewery. That's what I call a definite disaster. It was such shame too, because what could be rescued (no more than 1 glass full) tasted extremely nice. Should I ever try this again I will use my pressure barrel.



Monday, 23 July 2012

At last: An image heavy Holiday Post

I can't believe it's taken me so long to work my way through all my holiday pics to choose my favourites. I'm sorry this post is still stupidly image heavy, but I found it really hard to decide. Anyway, we've been back for nearly a month now and we're going away again shortly, so it's about time to show you where we've been an what we've done.
We spent a week in beautiful Dartmouth in Devon.


We enjoyed a splendid view from the house we stayed at ...


... and thanks to the telescope provided we could see all the way to the castle.


There were proper palm trees in Dartmouth - who would have thought palm trees in England!


We went on a boat trip on our first day to explore the quaint surroundings.




We went for long walks at some lovely sea side places, such as Blackpool Sands, ...


... Paignton, ...


... and Brixham.



We discovered the ruins of the very haunted Berry Pomeroy Castle.






One rainy day we went to the House of Marbles, where they exhibited (you may have guessed) a lot of marbles ...


... and some amazing mechanic machines with marbles running through, which I could have watched for hours.


We went to see the stunning scenes of Dartmoor, ...





... where on Summer Solstice we found a small ancient stone circle.




We also went to a place called Morwellham Quay where the BBC 2 docu-series Edwardian Farm was filmed.


It really was like travelling back in time spending an entire day in a village set in Victorian/Edwardian times.





There were lots of old rare breeds of farm animals and we made a little friend in this goat that would follow us around almost everywhere.


Jamie was fascinated by the big water wheel, ...



... and a lady thought us how to make rope, which we got to keep. I'm planning on turning it into a maritime wreath along with some of our beach combing finds.


I was very impressed by the lady's outfit, so needless to say I was in my element when we found the dressing up room. Just look how much there was to choose from.




So after me twirling and practising my courtesies for almost an hour, ...

Edwardian Dress-up

... even Jamie tried on some outfits.