Vanilla beans are delightful stored in sugar until they’re needed, which infuses the sugar with a wonderful rich flavour. I’ve done this before and mean to again. Recently I came across a lovely variation on infused sugar, for summer.
The lavender in my mother‘s garden is on the verge of blossoming, perfect.
I’ll leave the flowers in and use sugar when I need a little, or to make lavender biscuits or lavender chocolate cake. Birch sugar or honey can be infused, too. Simple pleasures.
For a while now I’ve been neglecting a bucket of beautiful rosehips that our dear friend picked for us.
Finally I filled the fridge with so much milk in anticipation of making mozzarella and had no room to keep them, so I turned them into rosehip cordial. Well, nearly. Sometimes I find we’ve really had enough of sugar and will trade off the pleasure of preserving for future use for the benefits of a sugar-free version. I made a rosehip infusion following a compilation of River Cottage Hedgerow and Preserves recipes, only I didn’t add sugar at the end to reduce into a syrup. We’ll need to use it in the next little while as a result, but then we need the vitamin C!
After bringing 800 ml of water to boil, I threw in the rosehips.
They cooked for a while, til I could mash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. I let them simmer a little longer, cooled, and strained through a jelly bag. Doubled muslin would work. Then I brought another 800 ml of water to boil and repeated the process, only this time I left it to hang overnight.
I strained the two infusions through muslin one last time, and decanted into cordial bottles, to store in the fridge and use up in a few days. We’d never tried rosehip cordial before, oh! We’re enthralled with the flavour, sweetened with a few drops of stevia. It won’t last long around here.
We’d like to go out in search of more hips to preserve in a cordial or a jelly, as there’s still a little of autumn to catch some.
Quince is another hedgerow fruit I’ve never tasted. Someone got to my dear friend’s favourite wild tree and picked it clean, so I bought a few.
They cut just like apples and pears.
Quince jelly would be so good. Very yellow, we imagine to ourselves. However we are overwhelmed with moving in a couple of weeks; the wonderful house in the countryside is ours! So jelly must wait til next year. Inspired by The Wonderful Weekend Book, we’ve set the quince to soak in brandy instead, waiting for the holidays. Star anise in one jar, cinnamon in another, vanilla beans all round. Oh, the sloe gin has turned a rosy shade after a day, and all the sloes have risen. Nettles infuse beside all of these, I shall be drinking it in hopes of finally getting over a very bad cough, and surviving the coming move.
Sloe gin is an enticing delicacy I’d heard of in snippets of conversation, caught in passing on a walk or while watching one of those British shows that make you want to move to the countryside. Slow gin? For a long while I wondered what sloes were. Some kind of sea vegetable? Roots? I met sloes for the first time over email, a surprisingly good medium for introductions that lead to passionate affairs, but that is another story. Our dear friend Sonny found the sloeberries in profusion, and sent me this photograph.
We spent this afternoon introducing the sloes to the gin. These have seen a light frost, so we didn’t prick the skins, just poured about an equal weight in sugar over them and filled the jar with the booze.
River Cottage Preserves has a simple recipe. I’ll keep shaking the jar to dissolve the sugar, and later on we’ll taste it, weekly it says, well, that shouldn’t be too much of a chore. In a few weeks the sloes can be strained out, and then we must be patient for as long as possible before we drink it. A whole eighteen months sounds like an eternity.
After traveling so much the last couple of weeks, we finally had a day at home to take care of details. I see a thousand things demanding my attention, but once I’d restored the house a little I turned to the elderflower still infusing, neglected, golden in vodka.
Before elderflower season came to an end, we picked just a few more flowerheads. In a kilner jar we drowned them in vodka. There they stayed, infusing for the summer. These many months later, I strained out the flowers and added sugar to sterile bottles.
Then the children helped me to ladle in the infusion. I’ll give it a gentle shake now and then, to help the sugar dissolve. My sweetheart and I will taste the elderflower liqueur before winter.
Hopefully next year we’ll catch the elderberries as well.