How to Crystalise Flowers

This is a fun little activity I discovered recently while looking for things to do with my foraged flowers. I had a variety of wonderful edible flowers and I already had more teas than I knew what to do with. It was then I came across the traditional fun and creative Victorian activity of flower crystalising. This is a really easy way of storing flowers and doing a fun and creative activity with the kids. It’s also very easy – you don’t have to be a whizz at cake decorating to get this one right.

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Step one is to to pick a bunch of edible flowers to use. Try to avoid going for ones from the shops, as these can often have harmful chemicals on them. Picking from your own garden is best – where you know exactly what they have been exposed to (or hopefully not exposed to!). Many flowers will also throw out extra blooms when a few are picked so you don’t have to worry about impacting your garden display.

Make sure you check out a reputable list of edible flowers and identify your flowers beforehand with absolute certainty.

I tried a range of flowers at first including hawthorn, daisy, geranium, poppy, forget me not and ground ivy. Not every flower will taste of anything but sugar – but it is worth noting you feel much less impatient when doing the larger flowers – although the forget me not were definately worth the strain!

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You then need one egg. Just one egg will do a large amount of flowers so you shouldn’t need any more than this. Separate off the egg white – this is the bit you want to keep for once! Give the egg white a good whisk – quality eggs will be a bit thick and will need breaking down to be more easily usable.

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Next get a clean (preferably unused or specifically kitchen based) fine paintbrush. Dip it in the egg whites and proceed to “paint” your flowers. Make sure to paint each petal on both sides and paint any parts of the flowers both showing and hidden (getting under any leafy bits and between petals etc).

Next get out some sugar. Castor sugar is preferred as it is finer and more delicate, but I used granulated sugar and it worked out just fine really.

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Dust both sides of the flowers being careful to cover as much as possible. Then place face down on greasproof paper and leave to dry. Once dried the flowers will go hard and will store easily. You can pop them in a dehydrator to speed up the process. You can then pick them up and place them delicately on top of fairy cakes… or whatever you please. They will retain thier shape and form and vibrance.

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Viola!

Primrose Tea

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Primrose! The lovely little five petal delicate flower we love to have in our gardens – is totally edible! Both leaves and flowers can be eaten, but Primrose tea is made from the leaves.

 

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You can use the leaves fresh or dry them out and store them for future use.

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Fill a tea strainer with leaves, and then let it steep in hot water for a few minutes. The water will turn a pale green colour. This tea tastes liek an everyday geenric herb tea – it doesn’t have any kind of real flavour to it. I added the primrose flowers to the top of my glass to liven it up a bit and improve the flavour and content. This means you get a wonderful nose full of the smell of flowers everytime you take a sip too, which is highly relaxing!

 

20160325_155117 20160325_155107In the early days of medicine, the Primrosewas considered an important remedy in muscular rheumatism, paralysis and gout. The herb has sedative propoerties.
Not to be mistaken for other similar varieties and cross cultivators (evening primrose – also made into teas and tinctures, cowslip, oxlip).20160325_155103

How to Make your Own Real Tomato Sauce

Do you have a thriving tomato plant in your home, garden, polytunnel or conservatory? Great! Then by now you are no doubt getting handfuls of tomatoes from it and looking at more unique ways of serving them up. This is a fantastic way of preserving the tomatoes and gaining a tasty sauce you don’t need to feel bad about adding to your dishes. This sauce keeps for up to 12 months sealed and 6 weeks once opened (if stored in the fridge when open). It tastes great too!

Ingredients

  • 2.5kg tomatoes
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 tsp ground black peppercorns
  • 2 tsp coriander
  • 4 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1 teaspoon tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons ginger (ground or juiced according to taste)
  • dash of chilli according to personal preference
  • 600ml white wine vinegar
  • 250g white sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

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Method

Roughly chop the tomatoes and onion, and place in a large pan with all the spices. Add the vinegar and bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 45 minutes.

Add the sugar and stir until dissolved then bring to the boil. Once boiling point is reached reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour.

When the sauce is thick and pulpy blend or sieve the mixture according to your preference and store in an appropriate rubber sealed bottle.

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How to Make Goat’s Cheese (Chevre)

Goat’s cheese (Chevre variety) is a light and soft crumbly cheese with a lemon zest. It’s a traditional favourite and making it for yourself can save quite a few pennies even if you don’t own your own goats. Standard store bought goat’s milk will do the job and one carton does roughly three ‘rolls’.

You can also use some plants instead of lemons to coagulate the milk such as Nettle, Sorrel and Yarrow. However I am still experimenting with these so more on these later on.

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Ingredients

  • 1/3 Carton of Goat’s Milk
  • 1/2 Lemon

Method

Heat the Goat’s milk until it reaches 180c. The milk should suddenly expand and go crazy in your pot attempting to boil over. Immediately turn off the heat and remove the pan from the hob.

Add Lemon Juice and let it sit for a moment. The milk should curdle but it will be difficult to spot this as it’s quite a subtle thing with goat’s milk.

You shouldn’t have to wait more than a few sceonds.

Place a muslin cloth over a bowl and pour the mixture in. Allow it to sit for at least 2 hours. The cheese will sit on the top. The liquid is called whey and can be used in a variety of ways including as rice stock water for extra flavour.

Wrap the cheese curds in baking paper and store in the fridge to firm up over night.

How to Make Camomile Tea

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Ingredients

 

 

 

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Method

 

Pick the flowers whole and leaves to soak in cold water. Change the water to ensure no soil or bugs remain. Leave to soak for a couple of hours and then dry out using a dehydrater or oven on a low setting.

Pack into a clean dry container such as a glass jar. Your camomile is now preserved!

 

To brew the tea simply add a few flower heads into your cup of boiled water and leave to stew for a few minutes.

Make your Own Mayonnaise

Yesterday I made mayonnaise for the first time and was simply shocked at how easy and simple it was. Mayonnaise is in essence just egg yolks and oil. Because of this it does last more than a week or two, but these ingredients we always have in our home so it’s easy to make as and when required. It also makes you think what they must put in commercial mayonnaise to make it last forever!

Here is the recipe I used to make mayonnaise. I have reduced the amount of Mustard in it because it was very strong but as an optional flavour enhancer you can put more in if you wish.

The vinegar will allow you to add more oil to the mixture and help preserve it a little, but careful not to add too much as it can spoil the flavour. Taste test frequently when playing with the ingredients.

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Ingrediants

  • 500ml Olive Oil
  • 1-2 Tsp vinegar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • Lemon and salt
  • Dijon Mustard to taste

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Method

Whisk the egg yolks and mustard if using. Slowly add half the oil while whisking.When thick add half the vinegar and then continue with the rest of the oil. Add lemon and salt and store in a jar in the fridge.

Lasts for 1-2 weeks.

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Quince Paste Jellies

These little christmas treats are packed full of flavour and goodness. We received such a great response to these this year I thought I’d share the recipe I use.
Fruit pastes are densely packed with fruit you may otherwise be unable to eat raw (like Quince), and even better than this they store up to a year because of the sugar content. Quince pastes may be a bit sweet on their own for some people, but are excellent additions to your christmas cheeseboard or game meats.

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Use baking paper or silicon mats on a tray to ensure you can easily peel off the paste after cooking.

Ingredients

  • 500ml water
  • 2 Tablespoons Lemons Juice
  • 2kg Quinces
  • Sugar (Check method for quantity)

Method

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  • Chop and core the Quinces. Don’t worry about peeling. Coring I found was also very tricky as the cores are larger than apples are, I ended up just roughly hacking away at the middle and getting all the seeds out.
  • Add to a pan of 500ml water and the lemon juice and cook for 30-40 minutes.
  • Cool, then blend with a processor.
  • Press the mixture through a fine sieve to create the puree.
  • Weigh the puree and add the same weight in sugar. (e.g. If the puree weighs 1kg, add 1kg sugar). The sugar is key here to ensuring preservation.
  • Stir the sugar in over a low heat until dissolved and the mixture is thick and coats the spoon (around 45-60 minutes).
  • Spread into trays and spread evenly. Allow to fully cool. Cut into small bite size portions.
  • If the paste “sweats” too much, further reduce the water content by dehydrating.

Store in a cool, dry place preferably in paper or foil tins.

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Oregon Grape Mahonia Wine

Once you have identified a Mahonia Bush and picked enough Mahonia berries (oregon grapes), you can get started processing them into even more exciting things. You can do many things with these little berries but my favourite so far has to be turn them into wine. They do not call these little fantastic berries Oregon Grapes for nothing! We used a 1 gallon demijohn to test out our recipe this year but the resulting wine was so successful we are definitely planning to fill a couple of 5 gallon drums next year instead.

These berries make a full flavoured red wine that is simply scrumptious and high professional quality. We found it went nicely with game meat in particular.

Minimum Equipment Requirement

  • 1 Gal Demijohn or Drum/Tub
  • 1 Airlock
  • 1 Siphon Tube

Ingredients for 1 Gallon Mahonia Wine

  • 2kg Oregon Grapes
  • 1350g Sugar
  • 2 stewed tea bags
  • top up with water

Method

 

  • Sterilise your equipment
  • Pass Boiling Water through the grapes and mash them up
  • Strain off the juice – do this several times to get the most out of the berries. It should be a super dark red.
  • Place into the primary fermentation bucket/Demijohn
  • Add sugar
  • Top up with water
  • Allow the mixture to cool until it reaches around 21C
  • Add yeast and yeast nutrient
  • Cover and place airlock
  • Keep in a warm dry place
  • After 8 weeks, test the mixture with a hydrometer. Add sugar according to taste if it’s ready to bottle.
  • Add a crushed Campden tablet to clear according to the tablet instructions and allow to settle
  • Rack Off and bottle.

As you can see from our current demijohn we have been so surprised at the wonderful flavour of this wine we have started taking one too many “Test Samples” before bottling! Oh dear!

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Silver Birch Sap Wine

So now you have your Silver Birch Sap you may think what could you possibly do with such a sugar rich liquid. The answer is of course, make wine! Unfortunately we do not have any pictures of the batch we made this year but I can tell you it ended up being an off-white coloured wine and one of our more enjoyable brews. We will definitely be making this one again next spring.

Minimum Equipment Requirement

  • 1 Gal Demijohn or Drum/Tub
  • 1 Airlock
  • 1 Siphon Tube

Ingredients for 1 Gallon Silver Birch Wine

  • 1 Gallon Silver Birch Sap Unprocessed (not boiled down or anything).
  • 1133g Sugar
  • 2 Lemons
  • 277g Raisins

Method

 

  • Sterilise your equipment
  • Boil the Sap and Lemon together for 20 minutes
  • Add the sugar and raisins and stir in while still warm
  • Strain the flowers – keep the liquid but not the flowers themselves
  • Place into the primary fermentation bucket/Demijohn
  • Allow the mixture to cool until it reaches around 21C
  • Add yeast and yeast nutrient
  • Cover and place airlock
  • Keep in a warm dry place
  • After 8 weeks, test the mixture with a hydrometer. Add sugar according to taste if it’s ready to bottle.
  • Add a crushed Campden tablet to clear according to the tablet instructions and allow to settle
  • Rack Off and bottle.

Dandelion Flower Wine

Dandelion Flower wine is best made when the dandelion flowers are in full bloom in the spring and fully open on a sunny day. The wine requires acidifying for the yeast so it tends to become a very citrus flavoured wine. For this reason we called this batch the Citrus Bang. We aren’t usually very fond of overly citrus flavours so we may change or ignore this recipe next year or use it as “Filler” wine only (wine we make only when we have made everything else available and have spare drums/demijohns).

Dandelion Flower Wine Dandelion Flower Wine

Minimum Equipment Requirement

  • 1 Gal Demijohn or Drum/Tub
  • 1 Airlock
  • 1 Siphon Tube

Ingredients for 1 Gallon Dandelion Wine

  • 1.136 Litres of pressed dandelion petals (follow the instructions for how to prepare the petals in our post on dandelion cordial if you are unsure)
  • 340g Raisins
  • 907g Sugar
  • 3 Lemons
  • 3 Oranges
  • Water as required

Method

 

  • Sterilise your equipment
  • Boil the Petals
  • Allow petals to steep for a minimum of 2 hours (we did overnight to increase flavour)
  • Strain the flowers – keep the liquid but not the flowers themselves
  • Add raisins, Lemon Juice, Orange Juice, sugar and orange/lemon zest to the liquid and place on a low boil for 30 minutes.
  • Allow to cool.
  • Mix thoroughly and add to the Primary Fermentation Bucket/Demijohn and top up with water.
  • Allow the mixture to cool until it reaches around 21C
  • Add yeast and yeast nutrient
  • Cover and place airlock
  • Keep in a warm dry place
  • After 8 weeks, test the mixture with a hydrometer. Add sugar according to taste if it’s ready to bottle.
  • Add a crushed Campden tablet to clear according to the tablet instructions and allow to settle
  • Rack Off up to three times, or less if you don’t mind it cloudy. Top up with water and bottle when finished.