Wild Flower Syrup 

 

Summer lags behind this year and I’ve been waiting to start picking, so I can get making. Last year it was me that lagged behind, so this year I didn’t want to waste any opportunities. I managed some foraging on a sunny day, a rarity at present and decided to make syrup, trying to get that one hot sunny day bottled!

Syrups are versatile, perfect at catching the essence of something, preserving that moment for a later date. Pour your syrupy creation on pancakes, use as a cordial, cocktail mixer (I’m thinking with Prosecco, yum), over ice cream… and so on.  Cheap to make and the ingredients are on your doorstep, just get out there and capture summer in a bottle.

There are many scented flowers out there to create a syrup with.  Classically you could stick to a single flower like elderflower or rose or you could collect others and make a wildflower syrup.  You can use dandelion, hawthorn, wild roses.  You can look in your own garden, use roses that have not been treated with fertiliser or pesticides, or use herbs you find there.  Experimentation with flavours would be a good idea.  Rose & thyme?  Elderflower & basil?  Who knows, I’m just throwing them out there?
So I found elderflower, hawthorn and some rose from the garden, the recipe I have used is adapted from River Cottage Hedgerow, it’s a great book and worth a look.

Ingredients

  • Lots of freshly picked blossoms (1 litre ish)
  • Up to 1kg sugar
  • Up to 500ml water

As the amount of flowers collected is unknown, it’s just important to make a note of your weight of sugar at the start, subtract the sugar you have left after ‘layering’, then you know how much you have used, you need to know this quantity later.

Take your blossoms and layer them approximately 2cm at the bottom at the bottom of your jar or jug.  Next add a 1cm layer of sugar and repeat till your reach the top.  If any of your blossoms are bulky, press them down to pack them in a bit.  But the layering does not have to be a work of art, as you can see, mine clearly isn’t and some layers have merged.

  
Cover your jug/jar and leave it alone for 24 hours. 

Empty your mixture into a saucepan and add to it 50mls water for for every 100g sugar you used (the quantity you worked out earlier).  

  
Heat the mixture gently, stir until all the sugar is dissolved.  Strain through a muslin or cheese cloth (even a clean tea towel would do) into a clean jug.

Pour the syrup into a sterilised bottle (see the  Elderflower Cordial recipe on how to sterilise bottles).  If you don’t use the syrup right away, store in the fridge, once you do open it.

Advertisements

Figs in a wine syrup

 
I tried these once in a restaurant and thought they were delicious, even a hater of figs would struggle not to like them; my only disappointment was that the portion was smaller than I wanted!  So thought I’d have a bash at at recreating them, what’s the worst that could happen? Well it would just be stewed figs, no hardship there if you like figs, fortunately it all turned out alright. 

Figs are easy to come by at the supermarket, but probably best bought from an Asian grocer or similar, as they are often more plentiful and cheaper here.  Buying baby ones are ideal, if not just buy what you can lay your hands on and cut the big ones in half after cooking. Even better if you grown your own and can pick them!

 

Ingredients

  • 500-600g figs
  • 300g sugar
  • 300mls dry white wine
  • 200mls water
  • Rind of 1 lemon
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence/paste
  • 1 cinnamon stick, break in half
  • 4 cloves
  • 4 cardamom pods, gently crushed
  • Several tbsps rum

Gently clean the figs, and take off the end off the hardened end of the stalk.

In a pan add the sugar, wine, water, lemon, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon and cardamom gently bring to the boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved.  Add the figs and poach them for 15-20 mins (depending on their size) on a low heat, just simmering.  

 

Fish out the figs when they have poached and set aside. Cook the remaining liquid in the pan down to a syrup for a further 30 minutes. Then leave to cool a little.

In a clean jar (preferably one that’s been ate rises in the oven: wash jar, lay in 100C oven for 30 mins should do), pack in the figs you set aside earlier.  Pour over the syrup, making sure the figs are under the surup.  Add 1 tbsp of rum to each jar and then close with a well sealing lid.

Ideally wait a couple of weeks before eating.  I didn’t though, it needed pairing with a dollop of marscapone sitting in my fridge.  Lovely with pancakes or waffles too, as is any leftover syrup!


 

Rosehip Syrup

IMG_8967-0.JPG

Once a staple during the Second World War as a drink to stay healthy. That’s because of the vast amounts of vitamins A & C, it’s now becoming a popular again, not just for its health benefits but for it’s lovely flavour

Rosehips are so easy to find and collect and the syrup tastes delicious, no spoonful of sugar required with this medicine! I love saving it for winter and drinking it hot instead of tea, very soothing if you feel under the weather. It does taste lovely on pancakes and drizzled on cakes too.

It’s not difficult to make but you do need a food processor for this recipe. Make sure stalks are removed and rinse the fruit off.

Ingredients

380g Rosehips
500g Granulated sugar

Bring 600mls of water to the boil in a pan. Mince the Rosehips in a food processor, then add to pan of boiling water, cover. Once boiling point is reached again, set to one side for 15 minutes letting it steep. Then pour through a jelly cloth or muslin to strain the juice off. Set that juice aside. Add another 600mls of water in the pan and add the Rosehip pulp, repeat the boiling process. Strain overnight.

Now combine both strained juices (in a pan) if you haven’t already. Add the sugar, heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Boil for 3 mins and pour into warm sterilised jars. It keeps for about 4 months.

IMG_8975.JPG

Apricot & Lavender Jam

20140727-123137 pm-45097217.jpg

Foraging doesn’t just have to be in the hedgerow or the countryside. Sometimes the supermarket can be an excellent place for foraging, with the bargains in the reduced items section or just what’s on offer. I happened across a load of bargain apricots at my local supermarket recently and came across a fab recipe for this lovely jam, and as I have loads of lavender in bloom in the garden it seemed rude not to!

If you’ve not come across this book before, then you should look it up, it’s called Salt Sugar Smoke and has some amazing recipes in it. Diana Henry describes this recipe as one of her favourites in the book, and it’s certainly a better apricot jam than many I have tasted. It has a sharpness to it that is lacking in the very sweet shop bought ones, and the lavender gives it a herby edge to it. The only thing I would change about the recipe is the amount of lavender as it was very subtle in my first batch, and I think it’s a jam that can benefit from more. If you’ve not made jam before, it really is easy, and fairly quick, you just need to do a bit of stirring.

Ingredients

1kg apricots
3-6 sprigs of lavender
1lemon juiced
600g jam sugar

Stone the apricots and chop them up. Place in your jam pan (deep heavy based pan) with the lavender, lemon juice & jam sugar. Cook the fruit on a low heat for approximately 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Take care that the fruit does not stick to the bottom and burn, this will ruin your jam! (A rookie error I have made in the past).

When the fruit is falling apart & soft, turn the heat up high, boil until setting point is reached on a jam thermometer, (or use the wrinkle test: put a plate in the freezer, when the jam has been boiling for a good few minutes, and becomes glossy, drop some onto the chilled plate, if it wrinkles when pushed, setting point has been reached).

Pick out the lavender stalks, pour into warm, sterilised jars, cover with wax discs, seal with the lid. They will last 1 year and will need to be kept in the fridge once opened.

20140728-064534 am-24334840.jpg