Saturday, November 29, 2008

Elderflower and water kefir - a yummy duo!

Just had to share ...

On a whim, I mixed a bit of our elderflower syrup into some very tart already-brewed water kefir - and I tell you, it is DELICIOUS!

A quick google revealed that the combination of elderflower and kefir is not stunningly original, but it was new to me anyhow!

(And in passing I noticed some sites talking about the cosmetic applications of kefir . Anyone know anything much about that?)

Elderflowers galore

There only seem to be a couple of Elders in our immediate neighbourhood, but the other day my mother took my children and me to a spot where they grow prolifically. After my Mum asked permission from a property owner, we harvested two bagfuls of flowers.
There were many other Elder trees frustratingly out of reach - they were on someone else's property, probably not used by the owner, but we had no way of asking the owner at the time.

Home again, I made a few things, including syrup for elderflower cordial and even elderflower junket. (No one in the family liked that except me, but I am a junket addict, and I will eat it any way at all.)

The internet presents a bewildering array of recipes for elderflower cordial - as well as wine and champagne. Everyone likes to make it differently. Here are some thoughts on navigating through the confusion ...

Elderflower/sugar ratio
A big part of the trick with the cordial is to get the proportion of sugar to elderflower flavour right, but that's going to depend on your own personal tastes. If in doubt, err on the side of adding less sugar than you think you need. It's easy to add more sugar syrup at the end if you find you need it, but less easy to up the ratio of elderflower.

It seems important not to skimp on the lemons. They add something really important to the flavour. In my first batch I didn't use enough lemon (to my taste anyway), so I've been adding an extra squeeze to each cup as I have it.

What I did
I used the method at Gastronomy Domine - but changed the proportions, and didn't use citric acid. I will freeze some to preserve it instead.

My proportions ...
Around 20 elderflower heads
1.5 litres of water
3 cups sugar
3 lemons

I also heeded advice from other websites to remove as much stem from the flowers as possible. Some little stems are okay, but not the big ones.

There are these tiny little black bugs that like to live in flowers round here. They mostly crawl very fast, and I can't quite tell if they have wings or not. If anyone knows what they are, please tell me! Anyway, we found heaps in our elderflowers. I've also found big communities of them in gorse flowers, apple blossoms and roses.

Often it's good not to wash any flowers before using them, because -
(a) it can damage the fragile petals
(b) flowers readily release their fragrant/flavoursome/active components into water, and you don't want to wash any of that valuable stuff away
(c) if you're making something like wine, where you want plenty of wild yeasts, you don't want to wash yeasts off.

SO - I stumbled on a way to get rid of these wee beings without washing the flowers. It's a little time-consuming, and there may be a better way, but anyhow, I'll post that on Wild Concoctions a bit later today.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Oh Good

My foraging article came out in Issue 4 of the wonderful Good Magazine this week. I like the dandelion smiley face they chose for it.

The article is sitting happily next to a delicious piece on Antipodean Christmas cake alternatives by Alessandra Zecchini - herself a foraging fan.

There is also a really rather inspiring editorial.

oops - sorry!

In my last post I gave the wrong link for the article Cultural Uses of Native Plants by Sue Scheele. I gave the URL for the contents page of the journal it was in, instead of the article.

Here's the correct link:

It's a great article.

Nikki - thanks for letting me know the link was wrong!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Foraging update

My good friend Lynda organised a Weed Walk yesterday for the Wellington region members of our foraging email list. Unfortunately for me, life stuff got in the way, and I couldn't go.

The walk was led by this Kapiti couple. Nikki has blogged about it here.

It sounds like a lovely afternoon! I wish I could have gone.

Still - I'm slightly consoled by having just found a fantastic article! It's Cultural Uses of New Zealand Native Plants by Sue Scheele at Landcare Research, who keeps a valuable database of this information.

It's a pdf file, and I haven't managed to get a direct link to it to work from my blog yet, so if you'd like it, just go to this address:

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Apple blossom and raspberry leaf alcopop!

I'm pretty sure it's Sandor Ellix Katz who is responsible for popularising (among us westerners!) home-made t'ej - Ethiopian style honey wine. It's the first, and simplest recipe in his book 'Wild Fermentation'.

Basically - 1 part raw honey to 4 parts water. Stir to dissolve honey. Cover. Leave in a warm room for several days. Stir at least twice a day, and wait for the wild wine-making yeasts to take up residence. Once the liquid is bubbly and smells and tastes like wine - well, it is.

You can use the basic principle to experiment with any sweeteners and additional ingredients you like.

Recently I tried using sugar instead of honey, and using water infused with blackberry leaves (tannins for some dryness) plus the last blossoms on our apple tree. The idea was that the sugar would be less strong-tasting than the honey, and allow the subtle apple blossom taste to come through more.

I'm not sure if sugar water is as good a breeding ground for wild yeasts as raw honey though! The result (above) was a nice tasting drink that tasted somewhat fermented, but was only very slightly alcoholic. More a home-made alcopop really!

Oh well. Further apple blossom experiments will have to wait till next year (and this time, I'll get started before they've almost all fallen off!) Meanwhile I'll find some other things to try and make wild wine from ...