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Freeze mint ready for mint sauce

Freezing mint ready to make mint sauce later in the year.

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There’s nothing like fresh mint sauce, made with freshly chopped mint – and freshly frozen mint is almost as good.  If your mint bed is is thriving, now is a good time to pick some and freeze it.  Just chop it and seal it in plastic bags.  You can do the same with parsley ready for parsley sauce.  I also freeze small quantities of basil, oregano, marjoram, coriander and tarragon for adding to meals like spaghetti bolognese and curries.

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I have two varieties of mint in my garden, apple mint (on the left) and peppermint (on the right).

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I find apple mint is the best variety to add to early potatoes to get that ‘new potato taste’ and to make mint sauce.  Peppermint leaves are delicious with Pimms, mixed with lemonade, lemon slices, cucumber slices, strawberries and ice.

To make mint sauce:

Mix together in a jug:
1 tblsp chopped mint leaves (fresh or frozen)
1 tblsp malt vinegar
hot water (ideally cabbage water)
1 tsp sugar

Elderflower Cordial

Elderflower Cordial

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20 large elderflower heads
2 lemons- rind and juice
2 pints boiling water

2 oz citric acid  (available from Healing Thyme, Whitchurch High Street, SY13 1AZ www.healing-thyme.co.uk)
2 lb granulated sugar

1/2 Camden tablet*

Sterilised bottles (stand in oven for 10 minutes at a temperature of 140°C and use whilst warm.)

You will need 2 large clean 5 pint containers – one to make the cordial in and another to strain the cordial into.
Remove flower petals from elderflower heads (just rub the flowers off the stalks – it’s not critical if some stalks get in as well) and put in a bucket with rind and juice of 2 lemons.

Pour over boiling water and stir well.

Leave overnight to infuse.

Strain through a stocking held over a sieve or colander into the second bucket.

Add sugar and stir well.

Add citric acid, stir.
Leave 24 hours.

Add 1/2 crushed Camden tablet (dissolved in a small amount of hot water) per half gallon, stir, leave for an hour then stir again to make sure Camden tablet has dissolved properly,

then bottle in screw top bottles.

It should be ready to drink once it has cooled.  To serve, dilute to taste.

Elderflower cordial tinkling with ice is the best summer drink ever – on rainy days you can close your eyes and imagine the sun shining on the elderflower petals, blackbirds serenading from the topmost branches, sunshine, rainbows and summer strawberries – the magical taste of summertime.

*For years I made Elderflower Cordial with this recipe with no problems, then, this year, it went fizzy.  The solution is to add one Camden tablet per gallon which kills any wild yeast – thank you to www.ashridgetrees.co.uk for this solution:

Storage:
With no acids or tablets – 3-4 weeks in the fridge. Freeze in plastic bottles for longer storage.
With the citric or tartaric acid it will keep for 3-4 months in the fridge.
With the Camden tablets, elderflower cordial keeps almost indefinitely in a cool, dark place.

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Elderflower Champagne

Midsummer – time to make Elderflower Champagne – which is not champagne – or alcoholic – at all – but, according to my family, is every bit as good as champagne:

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Elderflower Champagne

4 large elderflower heads
2 lemons – rind and juice
2 tblsp white wine vinegar
1 lb 8 oz of granulated sugar
7 pints cold water

You will need 2 large clean buckets – one to make the champagne in and another to strain the champagne into.
Remove flower petals from elderflower heads (just rub the flowers off the stalks – it’s not critical if some stalks get in as well) and put in a bucket with rind and juice of 2 lemons.
Add water and vinegar and stir well.
Leave for 2 days, stirring night and morning.
Strain through a stocking held over a sieve or colander into the second bucket.

Add sugar and stir well.
Leave 24 hours then bottle in screw top bottles.  (Plastic pop bottles will do fine.)

It should be ready to drink after about a week.

If not drinking straight away you will need to release the tops of the bottles regularly so they don’t explode – or you can use old port bottles with corks.

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Special Sausage Rolls

Special Sausage Rolls and Sausage Plait

These sausage rolls are really tasty and not peppery. You can make this recipe as traditional sausage rolls or as a sausage plait – ideal for parties.

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Ingredients:
1lb (500g) pork sausagemeat
1 medium size onion, finely chopped
4 mushrooms, finely chopped

2 tsp of dried mixed herbs or, ideally, chopped fresh herbs as follows:
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
½ tsp thyme
½ tsp oregano
½ tsp marjoram

1lb rough puff pastry (frozen or you can make your own)
Flour for rolling out pastry
1 egg, beaten
Poppy or sesame seeds

Thoroughly mix the sausagemeat, onions, mushrooms and herbs.

Sausage Rolls
Roll out the pastry to an oblong about 5 mm thick.  Spread the sausagemeat in a long roll down the centre of the pastry.  Brush one edge of the pastry with beaten egg, fold over the pastry to form a long roll.

Cut the roll into 35mm lengths and place on a baking sheet lined with baking paper.  Brush the rolls with beaten egg.

Cut small slits in the pastry with scissors and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds.

 

Sausage Plait
Roll out the pastry to a rectangle.  Mark into thirds lengthways.  Spread sausagemeat evenly over middle third.

Cut pastry either side into strips (see photo) and fold strips alternately over sausagemeat to form a plait. Seal ends with left over strips, brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds.

Bake in oven 230C (220C fan oven) for 10-15 minutes until the sausagemeat is cooked (maybe a little longer for sausage plait).

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Pastry:
8 oz (250g) flour
6 oz butter or butter/lard
Water for mixing

Rub 4 oz of the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Add water and mix to rolling out consistency.
Roll out pastry to a strip, mark into 3 and spread rest of fat on one third in small pats.  Fold into 3, roll out gently to a strip again and fold into 3, then roll out to the shape required.

 

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Rose Hip Syrup

 

Rose Hip Syrup

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The recipes I have found for rose hip syrup suggest 2 lb (1 kg) of rose hips but they are really hard to pick so I decided to try with 1 lb and found this provides 4 small (275g) bottles which is probably more than enough.

Any sort of rose hips will do but I used all wild rose hips.  Cultivated roses have bigger rose hips.

1 lb (500g) rose hips, minced (I chopped them in batches using the chopper/grinder device with my mixer).
3 pints (1.8 litres)  boiling water
300g granulated sugar

Mince rose hips then put immediately into boiling water.  Bring to the boil again then remove from the pan and leave for at least  15 minutes.  Strain through a jelly bag/muslin/linen  (I used an old cotton pillow slip placed in a sieve over a bowl).  Leave to allow most of the juice to drip through.  (I left overnight ‘cos I was too tired to finish it off after dinner.)

Because rose hips have fine hairs that are a serious irritant, you need to strain again to make absolutely sure you have removed them all.  So strain again through a double piece of muslin or pillow slip folded over in a sieve.

Measure the rose hip juice into a large saucepan and for every 500 ml add approx. 300g of sugar.

Heat slowly, stirring until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil and boil for 3 minutes.  Pour into warm sterilised bottles* and seal and label.

Use within 4 months and refrigerate once opened.

*To sterilise bottles and tops, wash in warm soapy water and rinse well, then put on a tray in a low oven (120°C Gas ½) to dry out and heat up.

Rose Hip Syrup has a unique taste – described as ‘warm, floral and fruity’ on the River Cottage website.  I quite liked it poured neat onto ice cubes – like a liqueur.  It’s also good with lemonade and it’s very high in vitamin C – ideal for keeping winter coughs and colds away – and as a hot toddy diluted with hot water.  During the war – when there were no oranges – children were given rose hip syrup from the Ministry of Health and even after the war, as a child, my mother gave me a teaspoonful of neat rosehip syrup every day.

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Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

Squash, Apple and Sage Soup

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Ingredients:
50 g (2 oz) butter
1 kg (2 lb) squash (or pumpkin) peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 large cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
2 level teaspoons of sage (fresh sage** is best)
1 level teaspoon of thyme
2 pints stock (vegetable or beef – stock cubes are fine)
Black pepper

*to skin tomatoes easily simply put in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to stand for about a minute and the skin just rubs off.

**Sage is a perennial so it grows all year but is better picked during the summer. For ease of use I pick lots in the summer and freeze in small quanities in plastic bags, or chop it and freeze in ice cube trays. Then it’s all ready to use for sage and onion stuffing in the middle of winter.

Method:
Fry the onion in the butter gently until soft,
Add the pumpkin and stir for a few minutes,
Add the apples,
Add the tomatoes
Add the stock
Stir in the sage and thyme
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Cool slightly, puree in a liquidiser or food processor.
Add a sprinkling of black pepper and serve.

Happy, smiley, pumpkin Jack'o'Lantern

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Spicy Pumpkin Soup

Happy, smiley, pumpkin Jack'o'Lantern

Ingredients:
50 g (2 oz) butter
1 kg (2 lb) pumpkin peeled and diced
2 medium onions, chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes or 4 large tomatoes, skinned* and chopped
2 pints stock (vegetable or beef – stock cubes are fine)
Seasoning:
½ tsp chilli pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp allspice
1 level tsp cumin
1 level tsp cloves
1 level tsp thyme
If you like a spicy soup you can add more chilli, cayenne and allspice but I find this is tasty but mild enough so even little children enjoy it.

*to skin tomatoes easily simply put in a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to stand for about a minute and the skin just rubs off.

Method:
Fry the onion in the butter gently until soft,
Add the pumpkin and stir for a few minutes,
Add the tomatoes
Add the stock
Stir in the seasoning
Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 30 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.
Cool slightly, puree in a liquidiser or food processor.

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Wittenham Cider

Samhain – All Hallows Eve – time to make Wittenham Cider – many years ago my aunt gave me this recipe – it’s from a very old newspaper cutting._DSC0086s

Wittenham Cider

3 1b apples
12 pints water
2 lb granulated sugar
3 lemons
empty pop bottles

You will need 2 large clean buckets – one to make the cider in and another to strain the cider into. Approximately 3 lb of apples – any sort – a mixture is best and windfalls are fine. Wash them and chop or mince them up (including peel core and pips) and put them in the bucket.

Pour on 12 pints of cold, unboiled, water. (The original recipe is so old it says 6 quarts of water.)

Leave for a week, stirring night and morning.

Strain through a stocking held over a sieve or colander into the second bucket.

Stir in 2 lb of granulated sugar and the grated rind and juice of three lemons.

Strain again and bottle. Plastic pop bottles will do fine.

It should be drinkable within a week.

If not drinking straight away you will need to release the tops of the bottles regularly so they don’t explode – or you can use old port bottles with corks.