Thursday, June 26, 2008

Polly's Cat

A few weeks ago I was merrily congratulating myself on having survived a bad case of blogger's block. Unfortunately my words were issued rather too soon; things went from bad to not so bad to worse again.

The problem? It's not so much that I have blogger's block; it's more a case of too much going on inside this pretty little head of mine, time management has never been my strong point. There is too much blog-worthy material in my life at the moment! Unfortunately my problem lies with my not being able to decide which is most favourable in terms of posting; this of course leads to inevitable procrastination and no posting instead...

Anyway, it seems that Rebecca Hillman has just given me the push I need. For weeks now I have been eyeing up the hedgerows, with images of me rubbing my hands together as I drove up and down to the village. Slowly the frothy white blooms of the elder trees began to put in an appearance around late May; but sadly there weren't enough of them in accessable places, so I would just have to wait.

Elderflower Fritter's are a summer treat which are very easy to make. I must say that Rebecca's efforts at making Elderflower Pancakes are rather better than my own. Last time these were served up in our household; I had neglected to strip the delicate blossoms from their green stalks. Having just chucked the whole head into the batter the taste of the cooked stalks somewhat over-shadowed the delicate flavour of the white petals.

In the darkended depths of my north west facing kitchen; (the small window lets in very little light,) lies the makings of one of our favourite beverages. Citric acid, organic unwaxed lemons, a lime and lots of raw cane sugar. The only missing ingredient is inclination, the weather has been rotten lately and it's not advisable to pick the blooms in the rain...

So, what am I whittering about? Quite simply Elderflower Cordial. The last time I made it was probably three years ago and recently I was presented with the last of the batch. Loathe to open this buried treasure; I realised that the season was upon us and that we would be making yet more of the stuff...

Frankly, it has a taste which is difficult to describe. Reminiscent of cats pee in scent, albeit somewhat less offensive, with undertones of citrus and je ne sais quoi this amber coloured sweet fluid mixed with water is refreshing in the extreme. This of course makes it the perfect solution to commercially prepared squashes which are packed with additives and colourings.

For storage I purchased small bottles with special tops on them, similar to those on your average jam jar. Having decanted the cordial into the sterilised bottles (I use Camden Tablets) I then go through the process of 'bottling' them as described in the Reader's Digest Cookery Year or The Sainsbury's Book of Pickles & Preserves or any good cookery book.

Once cooled and stored in a cool dark place; having been labelled appropriately the contents, ie Elderflower Cordial will last for years. As stated earlier in this post the last bottle of the last batch lasted for over three years; it remained intact due to the fact that I had carefully hidden it from the children!

Another treat for your family; and even guests is the ever popular Elderflower Champagne. This is so called because this barely alcoholic brew relies on the natural yeasts to ferment the sugars suspended in the clear watery solution. Once again it is decanted into sterile bottles; either glass champagne bottles which require special wire cages to prevent the corks from popping or preferably soda/mineral/pop bottles. My ex-mother-in-law absolutely loved it; once having overcome her initial reservations based on the subtle perfume emanating from a freshly popped bottle...

Rather than delve into the intricacies of how to make the refreshing tonic drinks outlined above I think the best thing to do is to introduce you to Hedge Wizard; whose post covers everything mine hasn't and quite a lot more too! His references to Margaret Vaughan; whose book Fruity Passion's has become my bible over the years are hilarious.

Why not check out the links above for some good reading material and great sources of inspiration? By the way; should you decide to check out any of the titles included in this post, they are all listed in my bookshop which is in the sidebar...

All the Best!

Polly Peirce

Purveyor of Fine Handmade Irish Greeting Cards & Wedding Stationary

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