Elderberry Capers 10/08/2012
I do not live in London anymore, decided to move to the countryside and almost a year on I have no regrets. I have continued to forage as a hobby and this year wanted to explore making capers with unripened elderberries.
The Elder can be found all over London, and grows in some of the most inhospitable places, so even if you live in the most urban parts of London you will find Elder nearby.
Now is the perfect time to pick unripened elderberries. They are at their largest and green prior to turning red.
I have followed this recipe http://methowvalleyherbs.blogspot.co.uk/2008/08/elderberry-capers.html and finished making a jar this evening.
I have picked more berries and will follow the process again, but this time take photos. I will also provide my own feedback on whether they make a good substitute for capers one buys from the supermarket.
I’ve gone through the recipe twice now, and the good news is that this really does work. I would actually go so far to say it is better than the bought version as the flavours are more subtle and fruity.
Below are a few photos I took whilst making them.
These are the Elderberries on their stem. They are green and firm to the touch, not like they are when they turn red and soft.
This is a slightly better picture where you can see the volume of capers per stem. I used a fork to strip them from the stem, but also found using my hands as easy. Some people freeze them and find they come off the stem more easily.
I have now stripped the elderberries from their main stem. I did after a while find completely stripping them tedious and after trying the first batch, having a bit of stem with the caper didn’t matter. I suppose it is similar with fish some don’t mind the small bones and others do.
The picture shows the elderberry capers in a salt water solution as per the recipe enclosed above. I put a muslin on the top with an elastic band and left for a few days. If you leave it longer you’ll find they start to ferment and mold begins to grow on the surface.
Here is the finished article. After taking the elderberries out of the salt water solution I put them into a sterile jar. I boiled up some homemade apple cider vinegar with sugar and poured it over the top. I’ve used them on a potato salad so far with great success, and they haven’t gone off.
I don’t think I’ll be buying commercial capers every again. This is such an easy recipe to do with a fruit that is abundant in London, so I don’t think there are any excuses not to make this yourself.
The Power of the nettle 13/03/2011
I’ve spent the last few months trying to use up the various jams, chutney’s, various alcohol drinks and still have a freezer full of berries. March has arrived, the daffodils are blooming, the sun occasionally shines so it’s time to go out a see what new foraging options are available.
One of the main foraging ingredients I missed out on trying last year was nettles. They are all around me in London, and Hampstead Heath is covered in their young little green leaves. These are the best ones to pick as they are not as bitter as the older, darker, and larger ones further into the season. There is a fantastic article on Brighthub that talks about the health benefits of Nettle Tea.
I haven’t got round to trying many of these recipes and ideas yet, but we did make nettle pesto last night to go with pasta. Our guests seemed to really enjoy it without any unwanted side effects thus far. The recipe I used can be found here, and it really was simple. I would have put up pictures, but it was knocked back so quickly and it looks just like any other regular pesto.
I will update this blog as and when I make more nettle recipes in the coming weeks.
Rosehip oil 31/01/2011
It is late January and I still have plenty of rosehips left. The thought of making more marmalade, jam, jelly, or chutney fills me with dread. The amount of sugar in these recipes also puts me ill at ease with the concept of local foraging and then making local products. This uneasiness might be mis-placed, and I’m willing to be convinced otherwise.
I had a look through the Internet today for more rosehip recipes, and I’ve come across this simple rosehip oil recipe created by Clare Flynn on the makeitandmendit website, which can be found here.
For the purposes of my blog I will use her recipe method with my pictures. I plan on giving this oil to some people and see if they think it makes a difference.
- 1 cup of rosehips
- 2 cups of chosen carrier oil (for this first attempt I’ve chosen cheap sunflower oil)
- Rinse the hips thoroughly and chop off the hairy heads and the tails. (not sure this step is required if the liquid will is going to be strained through a cheesecloth/muslin)
- As the hips I used were already quite soft this year I didn’t bother to chop them – if yours are still hard you can chop them or bung them in a blender for a bit.
- Put the hips into a heavy bottomed pot (avoid aluminium pots as they react with the rosehips and compromise the vitamin C), and then add the carrier oil. Clare used almond oil, but this is considerably more expensive than sunflower oil, so I have used sunflower oil first time round, and if I’m happy with the outcome and confident then I’ll use a more expensive one in future.
- Let the mixture bubble away, occasionally taking the lid off to give it a quick stir and make sure it all looks OK. I let it simmer for about four hours as my hips were quite squishy – for harder hips you may want to leave it cooking for up to eight hours.
- Take the oil and hip mixture and strain it – I used a jelly strainer – but some layers of cheesecloth laid over a glass measuring jug will do.
- Once the mixture is strained and all traces of the rosehips removed you can decant the oil into jars.
The oil definitely has a rosehip fragrance. I think I might have had the temperature a bit too high and might have fried the rosehips so suggest keeping it on a very low heat for several hours. The volume does not decrease by much so I managed to fill a 750ml brandy bottle and the smaller one above.
Sloe Gin Chocolate Truffles 01/01/2011
The last few weeks have been manic. Our Duck ‘n’ Donuts night was a massive hit. We have since made duck soup from the carcass’s and have the minced meat and vegetables in the freezer waiting to be turned into meatballs for a third meal.
Christmas day and boxing day have passed, and I still have some Sole Gin Chocolate Truffles to nosh on. The sloes were used to make Sloe Gin and are now soaked in the gin and sitting in the freezer. Having now made them, and been eating them over the last few days I can vouch for this recipe.
25g/1oz unsalted butter
75ml/3fl oz/5tbsp double cream
225g/8oz good quality Belgian chocolate
75g stoned sloes, broken up and softened with a pestle and mortar
2 tbsp sloe gin
1. Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment. Please note that I just used a round ceramic bowl, which seemed to do the trick, so don’t be put off by this.
2. Place butter and cream in a small saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute then remove from the heat.
3. Break the Belgian chocolate into pieces and add to the cream. Stir until melted, then mix in the sloes and sloe gin.
4. Pour the mixture into the prepared swiss roll tin and chill in the fridge for about 2 hours until firm.
5. Break off pieces of the mixture and roll into balls. Chill for a further 30 minutes before finishing the truffles.
6. I just coated them in coca powder, but there are recipes that suggest rolling them in hazelnuts, but I couldn’t wait to try them.
7. Place the truffles in paper cases and refrigerate to set.