rosehip cordial

Last year we made a rosehip infusion, sweetened lightly with a little stevia, and used within a short time like you would fresh juice. This year we wanted to preserve rosehip cordial to use medicinally throughout the winter. Gathering rosehips to make a vitamin C-rich cordial was encouraged during wartime in Britain. We’re growing very fond of the tradition. We used a combination of rosehips, including apple roses like the ones Alÿs Fowler showed us. We’re so fond of nibbling round those fresh, but they were starting to go, so we hurried to collect a bowl of them.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Give the hips a rinse,

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Then remove the stems. Aren’t they just gorgeous?

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Chop them roughly. Keep in mind that the seeds are used for itching powder! You needn’t remove them though.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Toss them in a pot of boiling water using just less than double the volume of water as their weight – so if you have 400 grams of rosehips, use about 700ml of water. Bring it all to boil again, leave it to cool somewhat, and pour through a scalded cloth.


Hang up your muslin or jelly bag full of rosehips and let them drip for a while, and repeat the whole process again. This time leave it to hang overnight.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Combine the infusions and measure them. The River Cottage Preserves recipe calls for 650 grams of sugar to about 1 litre of juice.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

Slowly heat til the sugar is dissolved, then boil for a couple of minutes.

rosehip cordial © elisa rathje 2011

I sterilise my cordial bottles in the dishwasher and if I can’t time it well to have warm bottles ready, I fill them with hot water while they’re waiting, then quickly pour the water out just before ladling in the hot syrup and corking them. Preserves says to use within 4 months. This won’t be a problem over here. Sterilise in a water bath if you want to keep it longer, and keep refrigerated once opened. We love a couple of splashes of rosehip cordial in a glass of water and we’re very much looking forward to having it all through the cold seasons.

baking apple-turnovers

To celebrate a year of homemade stories, I bring you appleturnover‘s original homemade story.

A dozen years ago, when I was pregnant with our first child, I made up a little song to hum to my sweetheart when I very much wanted him to visit Fratelli Bakery and bring me one of their glorious apple turnovers. It is a small but effective song. I may hum it for you sometime. When we collected the family together to tell them we were having a baby, we brought a box of those apple turnovers to have with tea. When I began to think about writing homemade stories, our little child would sing my appleturnover song and it seemed to fit my project ever so well. So appleturnover began.

I was beside myself with joy when Fratelli‘s delightful owner, Marco Cornale, welcomed me into his family bakery this summer to teach me how to make the apple turnovers I’d fallen in love with. Beside myself! Dancing! Singing!

baking with marco © janis nicolay 2011

I brought along my friend, the talented photographer Janis Nicolay, who shares a passion for baking. We were both in heaven.

baker © janis nicolay 2011

We made two kinds of turnovers. Yes, these are cherry turnovers, however they are gorgeous, and will demonstrate the traditional turnover. Fratelli makes so many turnovers, they had someone build a pastry cutter in the perfect shape, but you could achieve the same effect by pressing a large, clean tin can.

eggwash © janis nicolay 2011

Marco showed me how to paint a half-circle of beaten egg along the edge of the turnovers.

eggwash  © janis nicolay 2011

Simple pleasures.

cherry fold © janis nicolay 2011

Then we folded the pastry over to meet the opposite edge, tucking up the filling.

cherry © janis nicolay 2011

Press with a couple of fingertips starting at the middle and working each hand out toward the fold, the index finger pressing firmly into the spot the middle finger was last in, then work back down to the center again. That’s good.

snip the turnover © janis nicolay 2011

Now, the scissors.

fratelli snipping © janis nicolay 2011

Make a vent, as you would for a pie, with a couple of snips, to allow the heat to escape without blowing up your turnover. That would be tragic.

roller © janis nicolay 2011

Next we made the apple cream turnover, a slightly different style, the one I fell for. I’ll be rolling out my pastry with my best pin at home, as the family used to at Fratelli. Now they use a wonderful, simple hand-operated machine that rolls their dough out perfectly, back and forth til it’s the right thickness.

floured © janis nicolay 2011

The pastry chef showed us how she flours the dough a little,

rolled © janis nicolay 2011

And rolls it onto a baton, amazing. Then she simply lifts it onto their beautiful work table and unrolls it like a scroll.

cutter © janis nicolay 2011

We needed squares, and lots of them, so first Marco cut one way, setting the blade into the last cut edge to align it,

cutter © janis nicolay 2011

Then sliced again at a right angle. I’ve been eyeing my pizza cutter to see if it will be up for the job.

custard © janis nicolay 2011

Now you need the custard. I really must acquire a pastry bag like this. It looks easy but it takes some practice. Make a diagonal stripe of custard. (At home I’ll use a spoon! Or snip off the corner of a bag, perhaps.)

apple © janis nicolay 2011

On top of the custard, add a stripe of the apple filling. Oh yes.

appleturnovers © janis nicolay 2011

So wonderful, a dream, to see how these are made. The bakers are so much fun.

egg © janis nicolay 2011

Find the egg and brush again, but this time just paint a bit across a corner.

pinch © janis nicolay 2011

Fold a bit of one corner over the other, and give it a great firm pinch. That’s right.

turnovers © janis nicolay 2011

There they are, apple cream turnovers all in a row, ready to bake, magnificent.

chef © janis nicolay 2011

The pastry chef was so sweet to us. It’s absolutely enchanting to be in that bakery. Marco’s wonderful mother and one of his daughters were there helping out, everyone is ever so friendly and received us with astonishing warmth.

teatime © janis nicolay 2011

Marco sent us home with turnovers to bake fresh for our families. Rapture! Then my little girls did a happy dance of their own!

marco © janis nicolay 2011

If you happen to be in Vancouver, it’s best to get over to Fratelli Bakery
early in the day for an apple turnover. If you’re not, you can bake them yourself! Send me a note and I’ll send you the recipe! Thank you to Marco and everyone at Fratelli, for such an experience, and to Janis, for the beautiful photographs. You can follow her over at Pinecone Camp.

Thanks ever so much to my sweetheart and our family for such devoted support this year, all my love and gratitude. I’m so looking forward to learning more about traditional skills in the kitchen garden, good old fashioned handcrafted ways of making things, and tried & true objects.

elderflower cordial

We all went quite mad for elderflower cordial after our first time making it, putting it in jellies, cocktails, popsicles, so I was relieved to have time to put up a few bottles this year. I hope we can console ourselves with elderberry preserves later on, when the flower cordial has disappeared. I’m delighted to bring you the great elderflower cordial recipe I use, courtesy of the good folks at River Cottage, from their essential Preserves handbook, number two in the series that I find so gloriously inspiring. Preserves makes a particularly nice companion to Hedgerow, for putting up wild edibles.

© elisa rathje 2011

  • Makes about 2 litres
  • About 25 elderflower heads
  • Finely grated zest of 3 unwaxed lemons and 1 orange, plus their juice (about 150 ml in total)
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 heaped tsp citric acid (optional)

© elisa rathje 2011

Inspect the elderflower heads carefully and remove any insects.

© elisa rathje 2011

Place the flower heads in a large bowl together with the orange and lemon zest. Bring 1.5 litres water to the boil and pour over the elderflowers and citrus zest. Cover and leave overnight to infuse.

© elisa rathje 2011

The colour is quite something. Heady scents.

© elisa rathje 2011

I measured out the sugar on my trusty scales.

© elisa rathje 2011

Strain the liquid through a scalded jelly bag or piece of muslin and pour into a saucepan. Add the sugar, the lemon and orange juice and the citric acid (if using).

© elisa rathje 2011

Heat gently to dissolve the sugar, then bring to a simmer and cook for a couple of minutes.

© elisa rathje 2011

Use a funnel to pour the hot syrup into sterilised bottles. Seal the bottles with swing-top lids, sterilised screw-tops or corks.

Ours will keep for about four months, as we sterilised the bottles first and poured the hot syrup in, and sealed, while the bottles were still hot. A water bath process would allow storage up to a year. Of course, it’ll be gone in a wink. Pam Corbin suggests having it with champagne, or over fruit salad. A couple of days ago we spotted a recipe for an elderflower and gin cocktail. Heaven. I’ve brought the handbook with me to Canada in hopes of preserving a few other things. Exhilarating prospect. Thanks again, River Cottage!

elderflower champagne

We’ve bottled up our annual elderflower brew. It’s remarkable how much easier it is when you’ve tried it even once before.


While the girls were out gathering flowers, I got started. Elderflowers won’t keep!


I followed a slightly different recipe that I discovered last year after some anxious research.


Dissolve about a kilo and a half of sugar in eight pints of water, and let it cool.

© elisa rathje 2011

Slice a couple of lemons, choose seven or eight of your freshest elderflowers and clear off any insects (have a good shake outside!), measure a couple of tablespoons of white wine vinegar, and throw it all in the cooled sugar solution.

© elisa rathje 2011

I covered the brew with a few layers of cheesecloth, and left it for 24 hours. Some folks say to keep it longer, til it bubbles, and others say it won’t bubble til it is bottled. Oh dear. We’re trying the 24 hour version.

It does smell gorgeous, there should be a perfume. I sterilised my bottles in the dishwasher. You want very strong flip-top bottles intended for bottling under pressure, or you may have an explosion!

© elisa rathje 2011

After scalding a ladle, funnel, and mesh bag, I filled the bottles.



p>They are a pleasure to look at, aren’t they? I’ve stored them on a shelf with another strong shelf above, so if I do get an explosion, it will be contained. I know, how terrifying! Truly these bottles are made to hold tremendous pressure – not all flip-tops are. This elderflower champagne should be ready in a couple of weeks, but I’ll uncork it for my reunion with my sweetheart, on our return to the old country cottage.

copper polish

After a winter of hard work on the wood stove, the copper kettle needs a good polish.

dirty copper

How to polish copper? You’ve got copper to polish, and needed to know. I thought so. Like polishing silver with toothpaste, there’s an ecological, economical solution.


Dip a cut lemon into wood ash (wear some gloves in case it is too intense for your skin!) and scrub. This is messy, best to do it outside. Rub, rub, rub with a soft cloth. Rinse thoroughly with water. Anything left in the grooves might create verdigris, which is toxic, so clean it up well, an old toothbrush works.

polished copper

Repeat til shiny, then polish with a clean cloth. It looks so pleasing! It gives me energy for the next task. With thanks to that wonderful book, Sloe Gin & Beeswax.

mixing bowl

Of late I have been compelled to admit that a good mixing bowl is essential for making cakes. I’ve tried mixing in bowls that bounce and slide, that hold only half of the ingredients, that leave me to spill batter between a pot and a pie plate. Disaster. Yet I am determined to learn to bake an excellent cake.


When my copy of Cakes, the newest River Cottage Handbook arrived, my sweetheart went to look for the remedy. Like my traditional scales, the Mason Cash mixing bowl is a classic. It is grounded by its solid weight, so my two small bakers can beat a rhythm round it with wooden spoons without knocking it to the floor. The depth of it contains clouds of flour and effortlessly fits a couple of cakes worth of batter. Textured designs along its outer surface act as grips when mixing or washing it. Looking timelessly elegant is pretty great too. The bowl will function beautifully for culturing a sourdough sponge, cream cheese and yogurt. And most especially for cakes. I’m a proud owner.


For thrashing egg whites into airy peaks for a flourless chocolate torte using my trusty whisk, it’s ideal. Torte-recipe forthcoming, one to persuade you that every cake should contain at least two bars of chocolate. Happy Springtime!