Lavender Tea Milk Punch: A Libation to Toast the Returning Light

img_3257

It’s that magical time of the year—halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox—when we start to consider the returning light and warmer, softer days. The seeds in the earth are stirring and in some parts of the world (like ours) snowdrops are up and daffodils are already starting to peep through the soil. For my ancient ancestors, February was a time of great anticipation for the coming growing season. To ensure bountiful crops, productive livestock and healthy mothers and babes, they practiced fertility and purification rites—many of them featuring milk. Why, the Gaelic festival of Imbolc/Imbolg (Feb 1-4) has milk right in its name.

In light of the academic controversy that ultimately surrounds the term for this festival, the distinguished linguist Eric Hamp has conclusively proven that the second syllable for Imbolg can be traced to the Old Irish words for “milk” and “milking” which, in turn, was derived from the Proto-Indo-European root-word *Hmelǵ– signifying “purification”…Rekindling the Rites of Imbolg, W. MacMorrighan

Milk played an important role in these rites. It symbolized new life and so was considered sacred and pure. I imagine it was also dear. It seems unlikely to me that ancient peoples actually drank much milk. It would have been difficult to store and milk production was tied to the seasons. I reckon they made butter, cheese, yogurt, etc and possibly saved the milk drinking for ceremonies or for offerings to goddesses—particularly fertility goddesses.  Brighid, the mother/sun goddess associated with Imbolc, has a close association with milk. Legend has it that she was nourished exclusively on milk from an Otherworldly red heifer. Even post-sainthood, St. Brigid was considered a protector of herds and a producer of milky miracles. Pre-Christian and Christian worshippers of Brighid/St Brigid relied on the goddess/saint to bless and protect the milk supplies of their herds and the new mothers in their communities. Of course there’s a whole lot more to Brighid/Brigid than an affinity for dairy—like fire, poetry, herbs, healing…for starters.

In Scotland, dairymaids made libations of milk to the Gruagach, a female spectre of the class of brownies and a protector of herds. It was a practice that may have originated with ancient mother goddess worship and continued as recently as 1770, with an account of dairymaids on the Island of Trodda leaving daily offerings for milk on hollow stone. (source)

And so with a nod to milk-loving faeriefolk, fertility goddesses the world over and for my own ancestors who would have so revered dairy this time of year, I’m once again making this rich “milk punch” for my own midwinter feast. Danielle and I served this last year at our Midwinter Festival of Lights workshop and I’m so looking forward to lifting a cup or two (or three) again this weekend.

The recipe is pretty simple—it’s really just a heavenly mix of whole milk, cream, honey, tea and herbs & vanilla. Heat-loving herbs for a celebration to welcome the sun, makes sense to me. And so I went with lavender for it’s calming, healing and purification properties. You could experiment with other herbs and flavours. I’ve made this with rose and cardamom for a winter solstice party and it was delicious. Rosemary, another Brighid/Imbolc herb, might be interesting…Oh, and bourbon, brandy or any other favourite spirits make this ceremonial libation all the more magical! I serve this in a milk glass (of course) punch bowl with an ice ring (water & flowers frozen overnight in a bundt pan) and a sprinkling of lavender buds. You could also serve this with boozy whipped cream as you would with egg nog. For those avoiding dairy, I imagine you could do something quite spectacular with almond milk or coconut milk and coconut cream…

Recipe: Lavender Cream Libation

12694931_1011625468883192_8788016401389710024_o

Lavender Cream Libation by candlelight…and cake.

Ingredients 
1/2 cup + 1 1/2 cups whole milk (the most delicious you can find, grass-fed, organic, fresh,etc)
2 cups of good heavy cream (again, the good stuff, sans artificial thickeners)
4 teaspoons honey (more or less to taste – I use lavender-infused herbal honey)
1/2 a vanilla bean, split & scraped
2 cups of strong brewed lavender tea (use store-bought tea bags or make a tisane with fresh or dried lavender. I used a commercial chamomile & lavender tea. black lavender tea is also lovely. brew extra for blending to taste)
brandy (optional)
lavender buds for garnish (optional)

Instructions
Brew a pot of lavender herbal tea. You can make your own with dried/fresh lavender or buy herbal tea bags from the shop. I use multiple teabags and allow it to steep overnight or at least for a few hours to really get that nice herbal flavour. Remember you’re going to blend this with a whole lot of milk and cream, so your tea needs to be able to hold her own.

Once your tea is how you want it and cooled to room temperature, slowly heat a 1/2 cup of milk over low heat with the honey and vanilla. Stir to dissolve the honey and break up the vanilla bean seeds. Allow the sweetened milk to cool and chill.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups of milk and cream in a large bowl. Add 2 cups of tea and remaining sweetened milk. Mix and tinker to taste! Add brandy if you like. Sprinkle with lavender buds or grate some nutmeg on top. Serve very cold or on ice. And if you have a bit to spare, go pour a bit in your garden to bless your own fields or leave a draught or two for the faeries. Happy almost-spring!

 

 

Summer Heat: Nasturtium & Sumac Hot Sauce

Recently Updated148

Every summer I fall in love with the flavour, aroma and healing properties of a particular plant. Last year I swooned for the anise scented lacy blossoms of wild fennel and put them in everything from crackers, cookies and cakes, infused honey, ice-cream and vodka.

But this year I’ve fallen hard for the spirited peppery bite of Nasturtium, adding her bright orange, red and yellow petals to salads, pestos, omelettes, and savoury muffins. But this recipe for Nasturtium Hot sauce is my hands down favourite. It’s easier than pie to make, eye-wateringly delicious and beautiful to behold.

Now I’m a hot sauce aficionado (Louisiana, Tabasco and Smoked Chipotle are only a few of the staples in my kitchen). And this Nasturtium Hot Sauce does not disappoint. So far I’ve enjoyed it’s unique flavour and spicy zest in salsa, dips, devilled eggs, cocktails and even a wildcrafted kimchi. And packed with nutrients and medicinal properties – it’s oh so good for you too!

hotsauce1-001

You can find nasturtium (Tropaeoleum Majus) anywhere. Its vibrant blooms and lush tangled foliage are a summer favourite, planted in gardens and pots – but they can often be found growing wild along the Pacific coast, especially in sunny dry ground.

High in Vitamin C (which explains why they were once used as a cure for scurvy) nasturtiums contain many important vitamins, minerals, flavonoids, carotenoids, iron, sulphur, manganese and amino acids. And they contain a walloping amount of lutein, wonderful for keeping the eyes healthy. Their mustard-like oil is antibacterial, and it’s antibiotic properties are believed to be helpful in treating colds and flu. (see more here)

hotsauce9-001

Introduced from South America into Europe in the 1600s, it’s sharp radish like-flavour soon became a culinary favourite. Recipes for nasturtium include chopping their arugula-like leaves into egg salad and sandwich spreads, stuffing the blossoms with cheesy fillings, making young buds into capers, and roasting and grinding the mature seeds like black pepper.

hotsauce6

From the 1797 edition of  “The Accomplished Housekeeper and Universal Cook”

I adapted this hot sauce recipe from one found in an 1886 book called “The Country House: A Collection of Useful Information and Recipes.” It called for a pint of nasturtium flowers, a quart of vinegar, 4 teaspoonfuls of Cayenne pepper, 4 cloves of garlic, and 8 shallots. “Put the flowers, garlic, shallots, and pepper, into a pickle jar, and pour the vinegar boiling hot upon them, and cover it up for a week or ten days; after which, strain off through a cloth, as you would ketchup. It will improve by being kept a little.”

nasturtium3

Too this I improvised by adding a minced jalapeno pepper, a few “crow garlic” bulbs for wild terroir, and the red, tart, slightly fruity, seeds of Staghorn Sumac.  (The Staghorn Sumac tree is found in many neighbourhoods and in early august the ruby hued cones are ready for harvest. They stand upright on branches and are covered with velvety fuzz like the horn of a stag. To harvest the seeds you simply pull them from the cone, but you want to catch them before they brown and dry out, and you want to pick them before a rain which washes away their flavour).

Recently Updated149

Staghorn Sumac Cone & Seeds

If you can’t find any nearby, don’t worry, toss in a few lemon rinds instead. But aside from Sumac’s tangy flavour (often used in a wildcrafted lemonade) it’s seeds bring their own medicinal powers. High in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties  they promote tissue healing, lower blood pressure, and are helpful in treating many rheumatic and cardiovascular conditions.

And of course you can’t have “hot sauce” without peppers – which bring their many healing benefits as well. For example chilli peppers contain carotenoids flavonoids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals and are high in capsaicin (a compound responsible for “heat” with analgesic properties). Today they are often used in the treatment of Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, inflammation, weight loss and cancer.

So by soaking our nasturtium, sumac seeds and peppers in vinegar (which helps extract their many nutrients and healing components), this Nasturtium Hot Sauce is sure to bring a medicinal punch to your meals. But if you just plain love hot sauce as I do – then you won’t want to miss this unique botanical variation on a beloved culinary classic.

hotsauce

Nasturtium & Sumac Hot Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of Nasturtium blooms (preferably harvested in the morning before wilted)
  • 1 teaspoon young Nasturtium buds (these are hotter than the flowers)
  • 3 cloves of chopped garlic (or crow garlic if you can get your hands on it)
  • 1 minced jalapeno pepper
  • 2 cup of apple cider or white wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of Sumac Seeds (or a few slices of lemon rind)
  • 1 tablespoon honey or brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt

Directions

  • Pack dry ingredients into a 1 pint sterilized mason jar.
  • Heat your vinegar in a saucepan and fill your jar.
  • When cool, shake and refill with more vinegar if necessary. (Make sure the vinegar covers the plant material)
  • Cap and store in cool, dark place.
  • Give it a good daily shake for one week.
  • After one week, strain through through muslin or coffee filter into a sterilized bottle. Or whir it all up in a food processor for a thicker texture- which I did.
  • Store in refrigerator for up to six months.

hotsauce8

Sweet Magic: Summer Solstice Honey Cookies

DSCF4104.jpg
Then followed that beautiful season… Summer…
Filled was the air with a dreamy and magical light; and the landscape
Lay as if new created in all the freshness of childhood. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Looking for a festive way to celebrate the upcoming summer solstice? Well these aromatic sunny cookies may be just the ticket.  Made with sacred herbs and flowers of the sun, they’re filled with the gathering magic of midsummer traditions. And served up at a summer solstice picnic, they will delight young and old. After, all doesn’t everyone love a pretty cookie?

DSCF4079

And what better way to capture the magic of the longest day of the year? This is the day (June 20th) the sun’s powers are at their peak, from now on the sun will recede from the sky a little earlier each evening. For our Northern European ancestors, summer solstice was the turning point between the waxing and waning cycle of the great year. And they marked the occasion, as they so liked to do, by throwing a party. Feasts, bonfires, and dancing, all in celebration of the glorious midsummer sun. And they still do today!

summersolsticekuplaparty

Across old Europe summer solstice had many different names. In Britain it was known as Midsummer, in Latvia it was Kupala Day or Herb Evening, and in Scandinavia it was celebrated as Litha.  For women this was a “Gathering Day”, an important day of ritual first harvest. Wearing ceremonial clothing adorned with symbols of the sun, they would weave flowers into garlands and crowns. Then they would go into the fields and forests to gather plants and herbs.

117356-summer-solstice-unique-images-of-celebration-across-the-world

Click image for source and more info

summersolsticekulpala

Click image for image source

On this day plants were believed to be vigorous with the heightened life force of the sun – so it was common knowledge that a curing or magical herb plucked on midsummer doubled its powers! Folklore tells if you picked nine flowers or the leaf of plantain and put it under the pillow – you would dream your future spouse.

St. John’s Wort, with its solar yellow flowers, is the herb most associated with Midsummer. According to old herbals, it blooms on this day, and along with it’s many healing abilities, it brought protection from fire, disease, disaster and the evil eye.

summersolticestjohnwort

St. John’s Wort

While it was renamed by the Church after St. John ( it’s bright red red sap mimics the blood of St. John) it’s association with female powers and witchery is strong. It’s flowers were left at the feet of statues of Greek and Roman goddesses, such as Hecate, the goddess of ghosts and sorcery, and Circe, who distilled its leaves and flowers for potent charms. And my favorite herbalist, wise woman Susun Weed, steadfastly refers to this herb as St. Joan’s Wort.

Other herbs bearing the magical power of the sun include rosemary, vervain, hyssop, fern, mullein, basil, lavender, thyme, fennel, and wormwood. These herbs were associated with powers of invigoration, healing, purification and protection, and the flowers (rose, daisy, marigold, cornflower, calendula and more) represented beauty and love.

summersolticelatvia

S2500073.JPG

Petals were scattered in water or dried in love charms. In Bohemia, girls wore chaplets of mugwort while dancing around the Midsummer bonfire. And on Midsummer’s Eve Italians washed their faces in bowls of water containing flowers, rose petals and herbs.

summersolticeherbs.jpg

And of course, this herbaceous solstice bounty was also consumed! Fresh herbs and traditional midsummer feasting are a long standing culinary tradition. They were used in dishes made from the first harvest of the season; vegetables (peas and mint, new potatoes and dill), fresh cheeses (like the Latvian Caraway cheese) and alcoholic libations (the Scandinavians made Aquavit with dill, fennel and coriander). And in Provence five sacred aromatic herbs-rosemary, thyme, marjoram, hyssop and sage, are gathered to make an “infusion aux herbes de Saint Jean.” 

Recently Updated134

Herbed New Potato Salad & Latvian Cheese

In Nordic countries midsummer feast included “sun breads”, cakes or buns made with honey (also a golden sun food) believed to bring fertility, prosperity and abundance to the community.  One Scandinavian folk tradition recommends including midsummer dew in the dough to cure diseases! Roman’s had their own summer solstice celebration Vestalia, during which priestesses Vestales made sacred cakes with water from her holy spring.

summersolsticekupulabrad

So inspired by these many summer solstice food traditions,  I decided to a do a little baking ritual of my own – midsummer sun cookies! Infused with herby aromatic flavours and flowers of the sun (like rosemary, thyme, lavender and sage) then coloured golden with a few drops of orangey St.John’s tincture and adorned with symbols of the sun – they would be food magic indeed.

DSCF4107

And I think they turned out beautifully.  So if you’re looking for a way to mark the turn of the seasons and connect with mother nature, celebrate Gathering Day. Summer solstice festivities traditionally occurred somewhere between June 20th to early July according to differing calendars. So you have plenty of time!

summersolsticebelarus

Girls celebrating summer solstice in Rakov in Russia. Note the solar emblems on her neck and sleeves.

Wear something sunny, and take the children (or not) for a flowery, herby harvest.  But however you decide to enjoy nature’s midsummer bounty, remember that above all, “On Midsummer we eat and dance with abandon, leaving all worries behind. The sun never sets and there are flowers everywhere.”

Seems a good a reason as any to celebrate with cookies!

13395076_1403293939696466_71253875_n(1)

Summer Solstice Herby Honey Cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 & 3/4 cups of flour
  • ¾ C. softened butter
  • ¼ C. honey
  • ¼ brown or cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced thyme
  • 1 teaspoon lavender buds
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon minced sage
  • a few crushed cardamom seeds
  • pinch of salt

NOTE: I used more like a tablespoon of each herb in my cookies, but this might be too herbaceous for some, so adjust accordingly. And I also added 3/4 cup oatmeal to another batch of cookies and cut back on the flour. Feel free to experiment or use whatever cookie recipe you like…after all it’s not the cookie that matters as much as the spirit!

2016-06-101

Summer Herbs: thyme, lavender, calendula, hyssop and sage blossom

Icing:

  • 3 teaspoons milk
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • wee bit of grated lemon rind. ( I also added lavender buds to a second batch of icing)
  • Colouring. I used a combination of golden beet juice, St. John’s Tincture and a pinch of turmeric powder, but of course you could use a storebought natural food dye. Recipe for a carrot-based colored icing here.
  • Combine your milk and icing sugar. Slowing add in your colouring and mix until you find the desired colour/consistency

DSCF4101.JPG

Directions:

  • Preheat Oven to 300
  • Beat flour, sugar and soft butter together until creamy.
  • Slowly drizzle in honey while beating until mixture pulls together.
  • Add minced herbs and petals, mix well through the dough.
  • Divide into four balls and chill for an hour or so.
  • Roll out and cut into round shapes. Add flour as needed.
  • Bake at 300 for 10-15 minutes.
  • Let cool.
  • Decorate using the flowers and herbs of the sun: petals of calendula, daisy, St. John’s Wort, rose, or sprigs of rosemary, thyme and sage.

DSCF4094

DSCF4093

A Super Easy Old-Fashioned Creamy Dessert: Honey Lilac Posset (Or Rose, Elderflower, Peony, Lavender…)

DSCF4004

“Be cheerful knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house”  William Shakespeare, Hamlet

Dating back to the middle ages, the posset is making a comeback. Perfect for when you want to whip up a special dessert with minimal effort, it’s made with three ingredients, honey, cream and lemon juice. These are boiled together and chilled overnight. That’s it. And if that isn’t wonderful enough, try infusing your posset with spring flowers like lilac, wild rose or elderflower. Simply divine.

Desktop19-002

If you follow Gather’s fb page you’ll likely have noticed we’ve become smitten with possets. This began when I discovered this amazing recipe for Lemon Lavender Posset. Because lavender wasn’t yet ready, I decided to use what was in full bloom at the time -the glorious fragrant blossoms of lilac. The results were delicious.

DSCF4137-002

This inspired Jennifer to create Elderflower Posset (she tossed in a few of our native red elderflowers as well) and now we’re both enamoured with rose. Lately I’ve been eyeing the peony which is reputed to make a delightful jelly.

posset3-001

Elderflower Honey Posset

Today’s posset is very different from the one often referred to by Shakespeare, a drink made from curdled milk, sugar, alcohol and sack, (a fortified wine or sweet ale similar to sherry).  I like this 1596 recipe from The Good Housewife’s Jewel Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it luke warm in a dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.”

Bthe 18th century, possets are made from milk, but thickened with egg yolks (like custard) or bread (like a trifle). But the modern posset recipes now making the rounds, are more like basic puddings (no, not the Jello). And they’re often served slathered on scones or with shortbread biscuits.

posset

Wild Rose Posset

Puddings today are not thought to be good for the health, but possets certainly were. Used as a general “restorative” to fortify the body, or as a curative to banish colds and illness, possets were a delicious way to make the medicine go down. A 19th century recipe mentions a black pepper flavoured posset that will ‘promote perspiration’ in order to sweat out a fever.  Flowers of course, bring their own healing properties, elderflower and rose for example are both known for their anti-inflammatory constituents.

posset4.jpg

Elderflower

Possets were often served at weddings and used in toasts at all levels of society.  Which means you just might find them served at upcoming Gather nuptials.  Like, lets say a Rose Posset made with rose brandy and a yarrow infused honey (good for ensuring love, fidelity and marital bliss).

posset pot

Posset Pot

Sometimes a wedding ring was thrown in the posset pot and the person who found it was next to head to the altar.  You would use a spoon to eat the top layers and then drink the wine through the spout in the cup. With an alcoholic base at bottom and creamy layer on top, it actually sounds quite delicious. Needless to say I’ll be experimenting with a boozy wedding-inspired posset shortly.

So if you’re in a part of the country where lilac still blooms, you’ll be enchanted by this Lilac Honey Posset. But is you’ve got roses, well that’s heavenly too. I’m moving on to lavender, whose buds are plumping and readying for harvest. But whatever floral you choose, I’m willing to bet you’ll soon find yourself (like us!) enthralled with the old-fashioned charm of the posset.

DSCF4013.JPG

Lilac Honey Posset (with a lilac infused honey spooned over the top)

Lilac Honey Posset (or Rose, Elderflower etc.)

Makes about 6 portions.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cups cream (heavy or regular whipping cream both work)
  • ½ cup honey
  • ⅓ cup lemon juice
  • 1-2 cups fresh blossoms (be sure to remove all stems, especially from Elderflower…and if you’re using lavender, you’ll need just half a cup!)
  • wee pinch of salt & cardamom (if you’re so inclined)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • Bring cream and honey to boil over medium-high heat. Stir continually until honey is fully combined.
  • Keep at a low boil for 3 full minutes, and keep stirring!  Then add lemon juice and stir some more.
  • Remove from heat and mix in your blossom thoroughly. Allow to infuse for an hour.

possetrose

  • Strain off flowers and pour into small jars or ramekins.
  • Cover tightly and chill overnight.

Some say you can stick in the freezer for 30-40 minutes (if you’re in rush to sample your just desserts) but we’ve both found they won’t decently set unless left for 24 hrs.

posset1-001

Wild Rose Cupcakes & Buttercream Frosting: A Divine Confection

A rose may be a rose be a rose, but this cupcake is much more than just a cupcake! ~ Danielle

gather

1-20150517_135416-001

“Mystery glows in the rose bed, the secret is hidden in the rose.” 12th Century Persian Poem

Don’t underestimate the power of this demure, pretty, little cupcake. Behind its girly facade lies a scent and flavor so compelling, so transporting, that it has been from time immemorial associated with magic, mysticism, esoteric secrets, sacred sexuality, the unfolding of higher consciousness, and most especially – divine feminine power.

The story of the wild rose (from which all our domesticated roses descend) could fill books – and has. Reputed to be millions of years old, the five petal rose (Rosa canina) blooms in late spring in woodlands and fields across Europe, Asia, the Middle East and North America.

1-20150518_200257

Here in the Pacific Northwest, our native species are known as the Nootka and Wood’s Rose and were harvested by our First Nations for both food and medicine. Not much is known because, as…

View original post 937 more words

Piquant and Pretty: Daisy Capers

gather

1-20150314_164628-002

“Oh, dear little daisy, come whisper me softly, And tell me a secret I’m longing to know…Oh, say does he love me, and whisper it low.”—Burton Egbert Stevenson,“He Loves Me, Loves Me Not”

The traditional British recipe for Daisy Capers uses the tall Ox-Eye Daisy that blooms in grassy fields each summer — but the common Lawn Daisy (blooming right now) is just as delicious and such easy pickings! Springing up in snowy white patches everywhere, they have a slightly sweet “carroty” flavour —  not to mention a nice crisp bite.

The daisy’s latin name “Bellis Perennis” means “beautiful flower” and these capers are oh so pretty, their rims edged in pink, with their yellow centres peeking out. Salty and piquant, I’ve tossed them into pasta, a ChickenPiccata and egg salad sandwiches, and yes – just eaten them right out of the jar.

English+(or+Lawn)+daisy+(Bellis+perennis)

Easy to…

View original post 600 more words

Springtime in a Bottle: Plum Blossom Cordial

plumblossoms

Sweet and fair, she craves not Spring for herself alone,
To be the harbinger of Spring she is content.
When the mountain flowers are in full bloom
She will smile mingling in their midst.

Mao Zedong

As a prairie ex-pat, the early spring blossoms of the Pacific Northwest never fail to amaze me. Flowers in February? Madness! The first trees to burst into blossom are the plum trees—wild, cultivated and ornamental alike. The plum blossom is one of the most important emblems of the Chinese New Year. Because it blooms at winter’s end, often among frost and snow, it symbolizes perseverance, endurance and rebirth. Plum Blossom is the only flower in the “Three Friends in the Cold”(岁寒三友:Sui Han San You) along with Bamboo and Pine Tree. These three plants are highly praised in Chinese literature and arts as three friends who gracefully survive and thrive in the winter.(source)

More delicate than the showy pink puffs of the soon-to-burst cherry trees, the flowering plum is almost ethereal with her pale, fragrant finery. And how about that fragrance? If you haven’t stood under blooming plum tree at dusk…well, you should make it a point to do so! Of course, any time of day will do. Plum blossoms warmed by the midday sun are a sensory sensation. But for me, the plum tree reigns over the in between time—between night and day, between winter and spring. That’s when you’ll find me under her boughs, inhaling greedily, dreaming of ways to preserve her springtime magic.

And I’m happy it report that not only can you capture that heady scent in a bottle—you can drink it, too! Yup. A plum blossom cordial is simple to make and can be used in all kinds of recipes to impart that gossamery flavour of spring. And yes, you can taste gossamer. You’ll see.

plummy.png

pink ornamental plum blossoms | ornamental plum tree | white wild plum blossoms

First, collect your plum blossoms. They’re fairly easy to identify. The shape/profile of the tree is roundish and the bark is dark. Plum blossoms can be pink (with purple leaves) or white (with green leaves) and have smooth oval petals. The buds are round with only one blossom coming out of each bud sticking straight out from the branches on a short thin stem. The blossoms are plentiful, but take only what you need. Bees rely on the gorgeous nectar as one of the first foods of the season.

Snip the blossoms into a measuring cup, taking care to avoid adding leaves which contain trace amounts of the toxin which produces cyanide. A nibble won’t kill you, but excess consumption could be harmful. Two cups of loosely packed blossoms will get you about a cup of syrup.

12788548_10153872866005767_600564245_o

Here, I used white wild plum blossoms

 

Plum Blossom Cordial

2 cups of plum blossoms loosely packed (ornamental, wild or cultivated)

1 cup organic cane sugar

1 cup water

In a small heavy saucepan, combine sugar and water. Stir sugar and water over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 3 minutes.

Remove the syrup from the stovetop and allow it to cool a bit. I let it cool to hot but not boiling. Say, cuppa tea hot.

Pour the cuppa-tea-hot syrup over the blossoms and cover with a cloth. Now, if you’re using the pink blossoms wit purple leaves you can let the blossom steep for an hour and taste. I find that the pink blossoms get a little bitter if they infuse for too long. While the last batch I made with wild plum blossoms (white with green leaves) I left overnight with no bitterness. Play with it a bit. When you like the flavour, it’s ready to strain.

Pour the blossoms and syrup through a cheesecloth lined colander into a measuring cup. Now, if you don’t care about clarity, you’re good to go. I like to add vodka to my cordial and like it to be as clear as possible. So, I heat my plum blossom syrup gently until warm and then strain through a coffee filter-lined funnel into the bottle I plan to store it in.

The syrup will keep in the fridge for at least 2 weeks. Add it to sparkling water or vodka for a positively ethereal beverage or use the syrup to flavour everything from marshmallows to meringues. Oh, the gossamery goodness of it all!

12748025_1019713638074375_419476817942263729_o

*To make a plum blossom liqueur, stuff blossoms into a mason jar and fill with vodka to cover. Seal and store in a dark place for a couple of days. Strain and combine equal amounts plain (or even plum blossom) sugar syrup and infused vodka. Pour into a bottle and share it with your very favourite visitors.