Preserving the Summer
We wait the long, lingering days of summer with anticipation only for them to disappear in the blink of an eye. Savour every moment of this precious time when the mornings start with a joyous chorus of birdsong and the evenings can be spent bare foot and lazily in the garden.
If you can rouse yourself from this slower pace make time to gather a few elderflowers from the hedgerows and use to flavour cordial. Or add a cluster of flowers when poaching gooseberries for a decadent fool. Try growing a strawberry plants in a pot beside the back door, the fruit will taste even more delicious freshly picked in the warm sun or follow our simple recipe to preserve some in the AGA to sprinkle on your breakfast cereal or use to decorate a cake.
To make elderflower cordial
You will need:
24 large heads of elderflowers
1.8kg (4lb) granulated cane sugar
1.2 litres (2pints) water
6 unwaxed lemons
50g (2oz) citric acid
6 x 500ml (18floz) sterilised glass bottles
Remove any insects from elderflowers. Place in a large bowl.
Make a syrup by measuring water to a large saucepan then add sugar. Place on AGA boiling plate or over high heat on your conventional cooker. Stir continually until the crystals have completely dissolved then allow boil and reduce for two minutes. Allow to cool.
Meanwhile zest four lemons then slice all six and add everything to elderflowers.
Pour sugar syrup over fruit and flowers. Add citric acid and stir well.
Cover and leave in a cool place for 24 hours to infuse.
Strain through two layers of muslin and store for up to three months in sterilised bottles.
To make preserved strawberries
You will need:
A punnet of freshly picked strawberries – ripe but not soft
A cooking rack covered with muslin for conventional ovens or an AGA half roasting tray lined with baking parchment
Preheat your conventional oven to 65 C or Gas Mark 1/4 (ideally the temperature should not exceed 70 C). Boil the kettle and pour hot water over your muslin, squeeze dry (this stops the smell of the muslin permeating the fruit).
Spread the cloth over the top of your cooking rack and place on a baking tray.
Carefully wipe strawberries clean, discard any damaged fruit and then slice about 5mm (1/4″) thick. Lay on muslin or baking parchment ensuring slices do not touch.
Place in the conventional oven or slide AGA roasting tray along runners of simmering oven. Allow to dry for 6-12 hours depending on your cooker. Turn once during drying. Store in an airtight container in a dry cool place.
Citric acid is available to by in chemists, home brewing shops or online.
Serve dried or rehydrate by soaking in a little wine or vodka to serve as part of a dessert.