Elderflower fizz

elderflowerWhile making this fizz isn’t particularly complicated, it can go wrong, mainly if the equipment isn’t totally sterile. Mildly alcoholic, it depends on the natural yeasts that appear on the flowers, so you have to a) collect the flowers early in the morning on a dry day when they have most pollen and b) collect perfect freshly opened heads and check for insects before you cut them…(the freshest heads often have a slightly concave shape). This is because you can’t wash the flowers – lay the flowerheads out on some paper when you get home, and any wee beasties will crawl away.

As I said in the post for Elderflower cordial, please forage responsibly 🙂

Ingredients

30 heads of elderflowers

1kg sugar, preferably castor

3 unwaxed lemons, zested and juiced

3 tbsp white wine or cider vinegar

8 litres of water

You need a very clean bucket, or a stainless steel or enamel pan of 10 litres capacity,

and very clean ex fizzy drinks bottles to take 8-9 litres.

Method

Pick over your flowers for bugs, remove as many flowers as you can from their stalks, then snip away as much stalk as possible. Add the sugar and 2-3 litres of water to your receptacle, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.
Add the rest of the water, then elderflowers along with the juice, zest and vinegar. Cover with a clean piece of damp muslin and leave in a cool place for 2-3 days, stirring once a day with a sterile utensil.

If, after the 2nd day, it is not starting to gently bubble/show some signs of (subtle) effervescence you can add a pinch of yeast and stir again, but you shouldn’t need to do this. If you do, cover again and leave for another 2-3 days, allowing it to ferment and brew.

Strain the liquid carefully through a sieve lined with double muslin and funnel into strong fizzy drinks plastic bottles. The potion can produce a lot of gas, so you need to check and release some gas out – don’t take the screwtops off completely, as this might let in unwanted bacteria in the air. This is known as ‘burping the bottles’!

If you forget, the bottles will fall over – which is the great advantage of using plastic over glass, which could just explode. I keep mine in the bathroom, just in case I end up with an overflowing bottle and a sticky mess.

It is ready to drink after 2-3 weeks. It is only mildly alcoholic, but it is very moreish.

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Elderflower Cordial

This is so easy to make. Because I haven’t got a reliable way to sterilize my bottles, I freeze mine – which also helps me stop myself from guzzling it all in a couple of months.
Pick the elderflowers on a sunny, dry day – you want perfect heads with flowers just opened, no brown blossoms. Before you pick a head, check it’s not too infested with greenfly, and don’t take all the heads off any one tree (please). Obviously, choose trees as far away from busy roads as possible.

Ingredients
25-30 elderflower heads
1.75 litres boiling water
1kg white sugar
4 unwaxed lemons
NB if you are bottling your cordial, you may want to add 20g of citric acid

Method
Wash your flowerheads, drain, shake dry(ish)and then place them in a plastic bag in the fridge overnight or for several hours – this helps the flowers come off the stalks. Peel one lemon very finely – you don’t want any of the white pith. Shake as many flowers free as you can, then snip away as much of the remaining stalks as possible, and place flowers and zest from the lemon in a bowl large enough for them and the water. Pour over boiling water, cover with a teatowel, and leave overnight or for at least 8 hours. Strain liquid through a fine sieve or piece of muslin. In a non reactive pan, add the infused water, sugar, the juice of the lemons and the citric acid if you’re using it and over a gentle heat, bring up to a simmer until the sugar has dissolved.
If you’re bottling it in glass, decant while still hot into your sterilized bottles, leaving 2cm at the top (to allow a mini vacuum to form as it cools), and seal straight away. If you’re freezing it, allow to cool and then transfer to your containers, again allowing some free space as it will expand a little as it freezes.
Dilute to taste with still or fizzy water, 1 part cordial to 4-5 parts water.

a few of my favourite things to drink

Half the food blogging world (and no, I’m not swearing ;-)…….)is talking rhubarb,rhubarb,rhubarb…on punk domestics, they’re calling rhubarb cordial or syrup ‘rhubeena’.
Which must be very frustrating/disengaging for people sans rhubarb ;-(
I want to put up a rhubarb drink thingy too because I live in London and I do have some rhubarb, but seeing as I notice most of my precious followers, (… yes, all 9 of you, what an elite club huh?), don’t live in temperate climes, here are some of my favourite storecupboard things for soft drinks, wherever you come from/are right now.

All these can be made at home with some simple syrup, (but I also want to put a shout out for an old school drink that was all the rage the year before Red Bull came out – It was called a Sea Breeze, and it was a shot of vodka topped up in a high ball glass with part cranberry juice, part pink grapefruit juice – even without the vodka, it’s delicious + it doesn’t get you wired + it doesn’t give you halitosis – is it just me who thinks all those taurine based drinks are completely anti-social? But, I digress………) so, in no particular order:

1 Everybody knows how to make iced tea, but if you happen to have a peach tree in your neighbourhood, a few leaves added when you’re pouring the boiling water on will give a delicate peach flavoured tea, even when the fruit is not in season.

2 Pomegranate molasses or pomegranate sauce, available in Turkish and Middle Eastern shops – I once had a shop bought pomegranate drink from Lebanon, which had rose water in it too, which I really liked, but it’s not to everybody’s taste. Good with still or fizzy water.

3 Tamarind – either the concentrate paste, or hot water mixed with the pulp sold in blocks, then passed through a sieve. I add a bit of chilli sometimes.

4 Dried tangerine peel, commonly available in Chinese shops, boiled with a couple of cloves, strained and cooled.

5 Dried tarragon infused in lemon juice. This actually works really well in vodka to make a liqueur out of bog standard spirit, although http://homedistiller.org/flavor/liqueurs/syrup recommends a sugar syrup of 2 parts sugar to one part water for liqueurs.

6 Calamansi lime soda – these mini fruit are what you get in a lime soda in Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia (probably other places too) and are usually quite expensive to buy in the UK, but if you happen to have one of those mini orange trees as a house plant – it’s also known as Calamondin, then pick the fruit when they’re still green, just turning orange – really aromatic. By the time the fruit has gone completely orange, they’re all dried out and useless. The leaves can also be substituted for kaffir lime leaves in cooking.

Add as much or as little syrup as you like – I tend to use less rather than more.

There’s a couple of other drinks I love that are dangerously delicious – recipes to follow.

Soup for a springcleaning day

A cheer-you-up-in-winter/nice-bright-spring-day-but-still-a-bit-nippy-outside soup

The first time I made this soup, I’d bought a reduced price 700g bag of winter casserole veg mix- which is sometimes called winter soup veg mix- and when I’d made it, it was nice but a bit bland, so I mixed in (reduced price!) bearnaise sauce, and the tarragon really did the trick….all supermarket veg is vastly overpriced, and it’s much cheaper to buy it on the market – so, now the recipe is vegan and it has evolved thus………

To make roughly 2 litres of finished soup

About 700g (pound and a half) of swede, carrot, leek and onion, in equal quantities – this translates as 1/2 a swede, 2 or 3 medium carrots, 1 leek, and 1 large onion or 2 small ones.

1 tablespoon cooking oil

1 level teaspoon dried tarragon

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1.5 litres (generous 2 1/2 pints) water

salt to taste

Method -takes about 20-25 minutes to cook

Peel and chop the root veg into smallish cubes, slice and chop onion and leek finely – if your leek has a lot of dark green leafage, chop this off whole and either save it for veg stock or boil it whole in the soup for flavour and remove it before you blitz the soup, so your finished soup stays a bright and cheery apricot colour – the green will make it look too muddy.

In a small cup, immerse the dried tarragon in the lemon juice and set aside.

In a pan big enough for the finished soup, put all the chopped veg and the oil and stir to coat – set over a low to medium heat to sweat until the veg begins to soften – you can put a lid on to speed this up, but do check it and stir every couple of minutes, because you don’t want anything to go brown…this should take between 5 and 10 mins, depending on the size of your pan.

Add water and leek tops, if you’re using them, and a generous(thumb and two fingers) pinch of salt.

Bring to the boil, and then turn down and simmer for 15 -20 minutes – when you can squish a piece of carrot or swede easily against the side of the pan, it is done.

Remove leek tops if you’ve used them, add lemon and tarragon and blitz. If you haven’t got one of those handheld soup whizzers, I recommend you pour most of the liquid off into another clean pan before you either put it in a liquidiser or mash it by hand, then add it all back together.
Check for salt, and adjust to your taste – serve with fresh bread, or if you’ve only got horrid white sliced, then toast. If your lemon was unwaxed, toast can be zipped up a notch by rubbing first with the lemon skin, and then with a clove of garlic.

If you want to add cream (I don’t think it needs it, but..) or you too have a jar of bearnaise you can’t think what to do with, add it at the end and don’t let it boil when you bring it back up to heat, because it will curdle. Using bearnaise would mean that you leave out the lemon and tarragon. 😉

If you want to make more or less, it’s about 500g/1lb veg for every 1 litre/2 pints water you use, and adjust your lemon tarragon accordingly.

If only spring cleaning was so easy….