Monday, December 4, 2017

Spring harvest

November, the last of spring and the garden is soft and lush, ablaze with colour and movement. Like  the northern hemisphere we are about to go into our time of extreme weather and have mini harvest time for the soft  vegetables and flowers that are at their best. Red cabbage has been made into a brilliant red kimchi,  the lemons have been juiced, pickled, preserved and made into Lemon Power and  gremolata for the freezer.  The deep red petals of  the 'Mr Lincoln' rose are large, dark and fragrant, not yet beetle prey they are being dried to make Turkish delight for  after a short stint being admired in a vase. Calendulas are being deheaded daily, the best season in years. Don't be squeamish about picking them, you will get so many more in return and you can just pick half each day.I will have an abundance for oil extractions and tincture and enough to sprinkle on salads and add dried later to rice before cooking.

It is also the best time to harvest my favourite old fashioned mint before it flowers. Diamond-backed moths and rust are making their way up the stems and making a mess of it. Cut now, the damaged leaves stripped, the bunches are hung indoors in the shade. Rub the leaves through a wire sieve when dry. Do not leave dried herbs hanging too long, they get cobwebby and dusty, especially in summer. I think dried mint works better than fresh in spanakopita, palak paneer and mint sauce and I always have some in the cupboard.

A friend called to ask about elder flowers and came an harvested a basketful for Elder Fizz for Christmas. Inspired, I began a batch too. The grandchildren love this very grown up drink and non drinkers enjoy its champagne like bubbles. There is still plenty of time if you would like to try. Two weeks is the minimum fermentation. Best tip....don't decide to do it the day after recycling has gone unless you have a great stash of wine or beer bottles. I have been promised I can bin dive at a friend's accommodation cottage for my next batch!

Elder Fizz

This is a tried and true recipe at our house, usually made in time for Christmas ‘champagne’ for the non drinkers and children. The flowers contain natural yeast that assists the fermentation.
Will fill 10 wine bottles.

9 litres water
700g white sugar
1 lemon, juice and rind
30ml cider vinegar
12 elderflower heads

In a large saucepan, bring the water to the boil.
Stir in sugar until it is dissolved and remove from the heat.
Gently shake the flowers to remove dust and insects and remove as much green stalk as you can.
When the water has cooled to room temperature, add the flowers, cider vinegar and lemon juice and rind.
Cover with a cloth and leave in a warm place for 24 hours.
Filter through muslin or a clean tea towel and bottle in clean screw top bottles.

Let sit for two weeks to mature and serve chilled.

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