September is the time of year to get out and investigate the hedgerows. It’s also the time of year to make some Damson Gin. There are all sorts of fruits and berries waiting to be picked by eager hands: sloes, rosehips, blackberries, damsons and apples can all be found with a little searching and bravery. I say bravery because foraging is always fraught with a small amount of danger, for instance, a wasp can easily be inhaled if you become distracted by a particularly juicy apple.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing and my bicycle was glistening and raring to go. Foraging can be a trifle difficult when you’re cycling if, like me, you think you’re Victoria Pendleton. Berries can whizz past in the blink of an eye and then you need to brake, reverse to try and find the source of your distraction. When I went out to get these elderberries I took it nice and slowly to ensure I could scour the hedgerows sufficiently.
It wasn’t quite as smooth as I envisaged, it wasn’t like I could grab the berries as I cycled past; that would have been a bit too suave. Elderberries seem to grow just beyond my reach and there is always a little danger involved when picking; will you fall in the ditch, slip in the mud or even lose a welly. This most recent expedition resulted in me being attacked by some stinging nettles, swearing rather loudly and then just a few moments later kicking my bicycle stand into my own foot.
My Auntie Jean was not in fact my Auntie; she was my Granny’s sister which made her my Great Auntie. When I was at primary school I used to gambol back to my Granny’s house every day to have a sandwich, play some cards and on the best days have some sweets. My Auntie Jean’s house was conveniently on the way to my Granny’s and I used to stop off some days to have a glass of squash and catch up on the latest news.
Some days the two sisters (and on rarer days the three sisters) would meet up and I would tag along. My Granny and I would walk over to Auntie Jean’s house and have a great afternoon trying to coax the tortoise out of his home and watch him happily munch on lettuce. I didn’t think strawberries could get any better than when served with cream but one very hot day we all sat down to a Wimbledon-esque afternoon and for the first time ever I sprinkled some sugar on top. I licked the bowl to within an inch of its life trying to get every last drop of sugary cream out.
This is the first guest post I have had on my blog and what a guest it is. When I started blogging I think Toni (from the brilliant blog Boulder Locavore) began around the same time. What started as a few likes and comments here and there grew into a friendship and Toni and I now email regularly. We share a passion for local and seasonal food and infusing fruit and alcohol is something we both indulge in! It’s great to be able to see what’s happening on the other side of the Atlantic. Her photography leaves me green with envy and her recipes are always mouthwatering. Toni lives in Colorado and this is her fantastic recipe for Plum Slump.
I very much advise you wash your sloes before freezing otherwise you might end up with a few (used to be) living hedgerow beings in your finished gin. I’m not sure anybody would appreciate you pouring them a spider.
When you go out to pick your sloes I must warn you that 1kg of sloes is a good couple of hours of work, scratched wrists, attack of the stinging nettles and excellent fun if you take a friend. I’m not making it sound very appealing but what you get at the end of all the work makes it so worthwhile. You can take a look at this handy guide if you’re new to foraging to help you identify the sloes. I also have a few golden nuggets of foraging advice too.
Just like the crumbliness of your crumble is rather personal, so is what you choose to serve the crumble with. Cream, custard or ice cream? If you go for cream is it single, double, Gold Top or clotted? If custard, ready made or home made? If ice cream should it be vanilla with or without vanilla seeds or should it be clotted cream ice cream? It’s all very complicated and someone will always be upset no matter which you choose. I always opt for cream because I can stir it all together in the bowl and pretend I’m 8 years old again.
I think the cauliflower is a very lucky vegetable. It’s no looker but I’m yet to meet someone who doesn’t think the union of cauliflower and cheese is glorious. Being purple as opposed to its equally delicious, much paler, white cousin adds something extra to what might otherwise have been a beige overload on the side of the plate.
Another cake I had always ignored was lemon drizzle cake. Ones that I had tried were too sticky, not lemony or had so much icing you could have waded through it. This was my unshakable opinion and I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole, until I made it myself.
He recommended a baked marrow but not to cut it down the middle and then stuff it as one might expect but to go about it as follows.
It’s been getting colder, the days getting shorter and the need for all things comforting increasing. I went to the butcher and managed to get hold of some local recipe sausages. Toad in the Hole would be it. With some gravy and mash. Proper British.
What you will need (for two)
Sausages of your choice
1/2 pint of milk
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 garlic cloves
90ml balsamic vinegar
I started off by frying my sausages and made the batter while they were cooking. I find the best way for Yorkshire pudding batter is to put it all in a bowl and whisk furiously. It’ll all come right in the end. I was also clever enough to plan ahead, pre-heat the oven as hot as it would go and heat some oil in a dish.
When the oil was hot out of the oven, I put the sausages in and then back to the oven for a bit more cooking and to put flavour into the oil. After about 5 minutes, I poured the batter over the sausages and tucked it all back into the oven. As it is so temperamental I let it do it’s thing until golden brown and everything else was ready.