Rosehip Syrup

Sweet syrup, flavoured with fragrant and fruity rosehips.

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This was my first go at foraging and cooking with rosehips. I had heard of them before but I wasn’t quite sure how to identify them, so I did a little bit of research in some foraging books and on the internet.

Rosehips are the fruit of the rose plant, that develops after the plant has finished flowering. As there are lots of different kinds of rose plant, there are also lots of different rosehips. However I found out that the most flavourfull is the wild variety that grows in hedgerows and on the edge of paths.

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Some ornamental rose plants produce very large juicy rosehips, but these are supposed to contain less flavour.

I also read that rosehips contain 20x more vitamin C than oranges! So a drink of rosehip syrup can be really good for you, especially if you have a cold!

I found the best way to harvest rosehips was to use a small pair of scissors to snip the rosehips off the bush, into a large carrier bag. Be careful if you do harvest them, as the thorns on the bush are very sharp, I had a few injuries to show for my troubles!

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I got the recipe for this syrup from Pam Corbins River Cottage Preserves book. In the recipe she suggests that the syrup is also excellent in cocktails and gives this example of a refreshing summer cocktail:

30ml rosehip syrup
60ml white rum
Ice
Top up with 150ml cloudy apple juice

I really like the taste of this syrup, it’s not like anything else I have tasted before, but I think it has a slightly appley flowery taste to it. I’m looking forward to using it in baking and cocktails!

I will be bringing this along to Fiesta Friday#91 this week hosted by Angie. Happy Friday everyone!

Ingredients: Makes around 1.5 litres

  • 500g rosehips
  • 650g sugar

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To Make:

Weigh out and wash 500g rosehips, blitz in a food processor into small chunks. Transfer to a large pan and cover with 800ml boiling water. Cook over a medium heat, until the mixture reaches the boil, then turn off the heat and leave to stand for 15 minutes.

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Strain the mixture through a muslin bag into a large bowl, and set the resulting liquid aside. return the rosehip pulp the the pan and cover with another 800ml boiling water. Cook over a medium heat until the mixture boils for around 2 minutes. Leave to stand for 15 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a muslin bag into the bowl containing the first lot of rosehip liquid. Discard the rosehip pulp and return the liquid the the cleaned pan – you should have around 1.2L of liquid. Add the sugar to the liquid and slowly bring to the boil. Boil for around 5-10 minutes, then immediately pour into sterilised glass bottles and seal.

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Store in a cool dark place and use within 4 months. Once opened store the syrup in the fridge.

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Damson Gin

Gin, flavoured with sweet and fruity damsons.

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This year, while picking sloes, we were lucky enough to come across a really big damson tree! At first we thought we had just come across a bush with unusually large sloes, but we soon realised the leaves and branches were different, and that we must be picking something else. A quick search on the internet told us that we were indeed picking damsons, which are much more rare and exciting!

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We filled a large carrier bag and spent a few hours at home looking up recipes. I read that damson gin is supposed to be even more delicious than sloe gin, so I decided we should probably make a few batches to enjoy at Christmas.

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We are making a sloe and damson wine with the rest which is very exciting, but it won’t be ready for another year! So I’m glad I will have some damson gin to enjoy while I’m waiting.

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Variations: You could add some winter spices to your gin, to give a more Christmasy feel – cinnamon and all spice berries would work well.

Ingredients: Makes around 900ml

  • 500g damsons
  • 200g sugar
  • 750ml gin

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To Make:

Weight out 500g of damsons and wash. Then use a sharp knife to cut a small slash in the side of each damson and drop into a large >1.5L kilner jar.

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Weigh out 200g of sugar and add to the damsons. Then pour over 750ml of gin.

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Seal the jar and shake vigorously to start dissolving the sugar.

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Store in a cool dark place and shake semi- regularly for 3 months.

Then strain out the damsons from the gin, and pour into sterilised glass bottles.  Store in a cool dark place.

Serve over ice and enjoy!

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Sloe Gin

Gin, flavoured with deliciously sweet, tart and fruity sloe berries.

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Last year was the first time I made flavoured gins from foraged fruit, and sloe gin was the one that got me started on this obsession. I had always been told that sloe bushes were rare, and that people were very protective of any they knew about, so when we found one on a walk last year I was really excited!

However I have since realised that this is definitely a myth, or something people who don’t go on a lot of countryside walks think! Since then I have found lots of sloe bushes, often on the sides of countryside paths or in field hedges, so I’m sure anyone could find one if they look hard enough.

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Sloes grow on a thorny bush called the blackthorn bush, with tear shaped leaves and very long spikes on the branches. It flowers in early spring with little white flowers, so it’s worth keeping an eye out at that time of year as you can easily identify a few sloe bushes to come back to in winter!  The mayflower or Hawthorn bush also flowers at this time of year, but it’s bushes have leaves that are toothed, so they are easy to tell apart! You can also make gin from Hawthorn berries though.

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BLACKTHORN (prunus spinosa)

Traditionally, sloes aren’t picked until after the first frost, as the freezing breaks their skins, allowing them to release their juices into the gin more easily. However now you can just pick them when they are ripe and freeze them overnight to mimic the process. (Alternatively, if you are short of freezer space you can prick them individually with a needle!)

You can tell if a sloe is ripe by giving them a squeeze between your fingers, they should give a little, and if they are very ripe the skin will break and some juice will be released. If they are rock hard, they are unripe, and you might want to wait a week or two before picking them.

Now is the perfect time to start your sloe gin,as it will be ready just in time for christmas, and a bottle will make an excellent gift.

Variations: You can add lemon or orange peel to the berries to give your gin a slightly citrusy flavour, you could also add some wintery spices at this point which would be really good for drinking at Christmas.

One of my favourite variations we tried last year was adding a vanilla pod after you bottle the gin and leaving it to develop for a few months before drinking.

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Ingredients: Makes around 800-900ml

  • 400g sloes
  • 200g sugar
  • 750ml gin

To Make:

Weigh out and wash 400g of sloe berries. Place in a bag, and freeze over night.

Remove the berries from the freezer and tip into a large (>1.5L) kilner jar. Add the sugar to the jar, followed by the gin.

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Close and seal the jar, then shake to help the sugar dissolve. Keep shaking semi-regally for a few hours until the sugar has almost dissolved.

Store in a cool dark place for three months, shaking occasionally.

Once ready strain the gin through a sieve and pour into sterilised glass bottles and seal.

Don’t throw away the used sloes, you can still do something with them! You can make a sloe port, sloe vodka or sloe jam.

The gin can be drunk right away, but the flavour will develop if you leave it in the bottles for as long as possible. Some people say that sloe gin is better the older it is, and keep bottles for years before drinking.

Serve over ice and enjoy!

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Elderberry Gin with Juniper and Cinnamon

Gin, flavoured with sweet elderberries, and spiced with warming cinnamon and juniper.

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Last year I discovered elderberries for the first time, I love their slightly medicinal sweet flavour, so I will definitely be using them a lot again this year. Last year I made elderberry gin, which was lovely so I am making a few more batches this year.

I made both a plain elderberry and a spiced elderberry gin last year, and I much preferred the spiced version, as I think the cinnamon and juniper complemented the flavour of the elderberries really well.

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Elderberries are the berries that grow on the elder tree, after it has produced elderflowers. They are really common in the UK, and you will find trees along hedgerows, along paths and in woods. to collect the berries I usually bring a small pair of scissors and a plastic bag with me, so I cut off whole berry clusters from the tree and store them in the bag. Try to only take clusters where there are no more than three underripe, green or pink berries. Berries that are perfectly ripe will make the best gin as they will release more juice.

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Make sure you don’t eat any elderberries raw, as they do contain cyanide which needs to be cooked off before they are consumed! Another good tip is not to use any expensive gin in this recipe, as the elderberries and sugar will make any gin taste delicious, I just use the cheapest gin I can find.

Variations: I think adding some orange peel to the gin would be really good, and adding some more winter spices would also work, so I might try out some cloves and mace next time.

Ingredients: Makes around 1 litre

  • 600g elderberries
  • 250g sugar
  • 750ml Gin
  • 1tbsp allspice/juniper berries
  • 1 cinnamon stick

To Make:

Carefully detatch the elderberries from the stalks with a fork, making sure you remove and insects that have been hiding in the berries! Transfer the berries to a pan, and pick out any remaining bits of stem.

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Add a splash of water and cook the berries over a low heat, until they have started to release their juices and the mixture has just reached the boil.

Pour the hot berries into a large kilner jar, and then add the sugar. Pour in the gin, and finally add in the spices. Seal and shake until the sugar has dissolved. Store in a cool dark place for three months, shaking a few times a week.

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After three months strain the gin through a muslin bag to remove the seeds and berries, then pour into a clean sterilised glass bottle. Seal and store in a cool dark place. Delicious served neat over ice.

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Elderflower Gin

Gin, flavoured with zesty orange, lemon and fresh citrusy elderflowers.

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I picked so many elderflowers when I made my elderflower cordial that I couldn’t resist having a go at making some elderflower gin.

I made some elderberry and sloe gin last autumn which was absolutely delicious, so I thought I’d try doing the same thing with elderflowers.

The recipe for this is really very simple, it just requires about 1 month to infuse.  Now is the perfect time to get one started as the elderflowers are in full boom!

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Ingredients: Makes about 800ml

  • 750ml bottle of gin
  • 50 heads of elderflower
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 oranges
  • 2 limes

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To Make:

Remove any insects from the elderflowers and use some scissors to snip off the flowers into a large bowl. Wash the flowers and transfer them to a large kilner jar.

Use a potato peeler the peel the zest off the oranges and limes and add this to the kilner jar, then squeeze in the juice.

Pour in the sugar, and finally the gin. Press the elderflowers down with a spoon to make sure they are all fully submerged in the gin. Shake the jar until the sugar dissolves, then leave in a cool dark place.

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Leave to infuse for about 3-4 weeks, shaking regularly.

I took mine out this week because the top layer of elderflowers were starting to turn brown:

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Strain the gin through a muslin bag, and taste it. I wanted mine to be quite a bit sweeter, so I have added another 200g of sugar.

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Once the sugar has dissolved, pour into a sterilised glass bottle and store in a cool dark place.

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Enjoy on the rocks, or mixed with tonic water for a pimped up G&T.

Elderflower Cordial

Sweet and citrusy cordial, flavoured with fragrant and lemony elderflowers.

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All along the roadsides and hedges at this time of year, the green bushes are decorated with the white plumes of the elderflower. I have been waiting (very impatiently!) for the elderflowers to appear this year, so I was delighted when I started to see them popping out over the last few weeks.

This weekend, equipped with three plastic carrier bags, we went searching for elderflowers, on a walk through the country side, and returned with enough elderflowers to make 8 bottles of cordial, and even a cheeky elderflower gin (post coming soon!).

You can recognise elderflowers easily. They are small trees/bushes, with big clusters of very small creamy white flowers. Try to pick them on a dry day, and they are supposed to be at their best when they still have a few unopened buds on the flower head. Even if you have never noticed them before, if you go on a walk in the countryside, you are bound to find at least a few big bushes!

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Most recipes for elderflower cordial use citric acid as a preservative, but I couldn’t get hold of any in time, so I have used campden tablets instead. However I do think that means that I needed to use a lot more lemon juice to get the balance of flavour right!

Having said that, I am really pleased with my elderflower cordial, it tastes so much better than the cordial you buy in the shops, and we managed to get through an entire bottle in just one week! I’m looking forward to using it to liven up cocktails and even to flavour cakes and biscuits over the summer.

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Ingredients: Makes Two 750ml Bottles:

  • 50 elderflower heads
  • 8 lemons
  • 1 lime
  • 600g sugar
  • 1 Campden tablet (optional)

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To Make:

Wash the elderflowers under some cold water and remove any insects.

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Remove as much stem as possible and transfer the flowers to a 1.5L jar, with the zest of 1 lemons and 1 lime. Quarter the zested fruit and add to the flowers.

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Pour 750ml cold water over the flours and seal. Leave to infuse in the fridge for 24 hours.

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Drain the elderflower liquid through a muslin bag and transfer to a large pan.

Add 500g of sugar and the juice of 8 lemons to the elderflower water (squeeze out the juice of the lemon and lime from the infusion aswell!), and heat until the sugar has dissolved Taste now to check it is sweet/sour enough for you.

Stir through one crushed camden tablet, and pour into sterilised glass bottles and seal.

The cordial should keep for up to 6 months if you use the campden tablets. If not, it will keep in the fridge for a few weeks.

Serve with fizzy water and ice, for a deliciously refreshing summer drink.

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