open gateway

on the farm in June

 

 

In June the farm seems filled with every shade of green from the yellowing green of grass seed heads to the dark green of shady oak tree branches. We’re poised at the point just before hot summer days dry out the grass and bleach the fields of wheat to dusty yellows.

tank and hosepipe

The grass grows tall in neglected corners.

bottles tucked into wall

While clearing a shed we ask why it seems obligatory for every old farm shed to have bottles and jars on a shelf or tucked into a hole in the wall

date and initials on wall

and to wonder who FG was and what they were doing in the shed in 1884.

rusting paint

Peeling paint on metal reveals the colours underneath.

As Bill filled his sprayer from the water tank the other day, a small rust hole in the water tank finally gave out and as water spurted from the tank it was a race to fill the sprayer before the tank emptied. One slightly frantic phone call later and I was crouched down, finger pressed against the hole feeling like the Dutch boy who saved his country by sticking his finger in the dyke. Believe me, it takes quite a while to fill a 3200 litre sprayer and the hole was inconveniently low. Such is the lot of the farmer’s wife.

 

under the trees

In June, there’s time to sit under trees and enjoy the sunshine.

It feels as if summer is truly here.

 

 

 

elderflowers and roses

Elderflower Power

Around here, the elder is in full flower and looking across the fields, it’s easy to spot the cream coloured blobs of saucer shaped flowers. The flowers need to be picked when they’re still creamy coloured; you should leave them once they’ve turned white or started to brown. I once read that they harbour fewer insects if picked early in the day, but I’m not sure if that’s true.

If you have an elder growing near you, arm yourself with a pair of scissors and cut some before it disappears. You need to deal with the flowers as soon as you get home as they don’t keep well and even left overnight will take on a decidedly unappealing smell.

Here’s some ideas for using your freshly cut elderflowers.

Elderflower Fizz

Drink this fresh as a cordial or leave it for two or three weeks for the wild yeasts to gently ferment in the bottle giving you a fizzy drink. The longer it’s kept, the drier and more alcoholic (though it never gets too strong) it becomes so that by October it’s usually too dry for me. That said, I once found a bottle in the spring time that we drank. Fearing it might be a bit lively, we took it outside to open and two thirds of the bottle sprayed across the grass.

Read the recipe for Elderflower Fizz >>

elderflower and rose

Elderflower & Rose Cordial

I’m not a great fan of the colour pink but in summer there’s something very seductive about a pale pink drink, particularly with bubbles gently rising to the top. An elder bush has insinuated itself amongst the roses, making a pretty combination of creamy white elder flowers, pink roses and green foliage and while I was picking elderflowers, it struck me that not only would a combination of elderflower and rose make a pretty pink drink, but it would taste good too.

Rose and Elderflower Cordial

rose and elderflower cordial

25 elder flower heads
4 rose heads – choose a fragrant deep coloured variety
2 lemons
750g granulated sugar
25g citric acid
1 litre cold water

When you’re picking elder flowers, choose the creamy pollen laden ones rather than any that are turning brown. Don’t wash them but shake off any insects and then cut off the big stems, letting the florets fall into a large bowl. Snip off the white part of the rose petals as it’s supposed to be bitter and add the shredded rose petals to the bowl. I find it easiest to hold the rose by the stem and just snip the petals into strips, working my way around the edge until I reach the middle. Much easier than trying to snip individual petals.

Remove the lemon peel with a potato peeler and add to the bowl, together with the juice of the lemons.

Now tip in the sugar, citric acid and cold water and give it a good stir to dissolve the sugar. You might need to come back after half an hour and give it another stir.

Cover and leave for 24 hours in the cool. You can leave it for another day, but don’t be tempted to leave it too long as mould will start to grow on the elderflowers. I speak from experience.

Strain and bottle. Dilute with still or sparkling water.

Elderflower Creams

A richer version of Elderflower Milk Jelly. Recently I made these in small metal pudding tins and unmoulded them to serve (as you would with panna cotta). Unfortunately, I hadn’t been very diligent removing all the tiny insects so it looked as though I’d flavoured the creams with a vanilla pod and scraped out the seeds. They tasted fine.

Elderflower Creams

300ml whole milk
300ml double cream
6 heads elderflowers snipped from the main stem
Leaf gelatine – enough to set 600ml
45g caster sugar

Pour about 6 tablespoons of milk into a bowl, snip the gelatine into pieces and add to the milk and leave to soak.

Put the remaining milk into a saucepan with the cream and elderflower heads and heat gently. When the cream and milk reach simmering point, remove the pan from the heat and place the bowl containing the gelatine on top of the saucepan for five minutes. The elderflowers will continue to infuse the creamy milk with their flavour and the heat will dissolve the gelatine in the bowl above.

After five minutes, strain the creamy milk into a jug, discard the elderflowers and stir in the sugar. Stir the gelatine and milk mixture into the elderflower infused cream and and pour into six small ramekins.

Leave to set in the fridge for at least three hours.

elderflower

Gooseberry and elderflower fool

Simmer 500g gooseberries with 5 large heads of elder flowers 4 tablespoons of sugar and a spoonful of water for ten minutes until the gooseberries start to burst. Leave until cold and then pick out the elderflowers. Lightly mash the gooseberries with a fork, fold in 300ml of softly whipped cream and serve.

Elderflower Infused Water

Delightful as cordials are, I can’t drink them all day. In summer I like to keep a jug of water in the fridge because otherwise I waste too much water waiting for the tap to run cold and these Infused Waters are really just a step up from a slice of lemon floating in the jug. Certainly if you’re the driver for the evening, they beat the gloom of glass after glass of plain water or worse still, sweet gloopy UHT orange juice.

Just add a couple of elderflower heads with a slice or two of lemon to a jug of water and chill. Elderflower, Rose & Lime also works well. I keep the jug in the fridge and top up with water as I use it during the day.

 

Have a good weekend.

PS Have you seen The Dinner Party Collective ? The summer menu is now up and it looks delicious.

In My Kitchen – June 2015

Yesterday, after a gloriously hot sunny day for Open Farm Sunday, I decided that Summer Had Arrived and it was time for the Seasonal Wardrobe Changeover. Winter jumpers and thick socks were put away and summer clothes brought out, although some of the summer clothes were immediately consigned to the recycling bag as for some reason the unsightly stains hadn’t miraculously disappeared over winter.

This morning I retrieved a winter jumper and put my socks back on as summer appears to have deserted us already. I checked the weather forecast to see if it would be back tomorrow, but was rather disheartened to read that tonight “temperatures could still dip low enough to give a patchy rural grass frost”.

elderflower and rose for cordial

Therefore, it’s more in hope than expectation, that in my kitchen this month I’m making Elderflower and Rose Cordial. With luck, we’ll be able to drink it in the sunshine.

broad beans fresh from the garden

Also in my kitchen, the first tiny broad beans from the garden that were cooked with a couple of mint leaves and then roughly mashed with butter and seasoning to spread on a slice of sourdough toast.

rhubarb cake

The rhubarb is still going strong so this week it’s been used in cake. I have a limited cake repertoire. I use just a few recipes and adapt them, which seems a good deal easier than endlessly trying something new. This week the raspberries in the Raspberry Loaf Cake were replaced with rhubarb. A successful adaptation. In fact, so successful that there is no cooked photograph because it was sliced and eaten when it had barely cooled.

the view from the kitchen window in June

Through the kitchen window, the vegetable garden is slowly coming to life. There is even more anti-guinea fowl netting, which has now been supplemented by anti-all bird netting on the cherry tree.

What’s happening in your kitchen? Is it full of summer sun?

Once again, I’m joining in with Celia’s In My Kitchen series at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial as we tour the world to see what everyone has in their kitchen this month. If you have the time, check out some of the different blogs that are listed on Celia’s page

tractor trailer rides

Open Farm Sunday 2015

open farm sunday 2015

On Sunday 7th June, hundreds of farms across the country will be opening their gates to welcome the public for the 10th Open Farm Sunday. This annual event offers a great way for people to find out more about where their food comes from, talk to the farmers who produce it and get out into the heart of the countryside.

insect eye

Once again, we’re taking part with tractor and trailer rides around the fields, a walk to see how the Christmas trees are grown and the ever popular grain mills for grinding wheat into flour. Also, the Slamseys Art Trail runs throughout June, so there’s wonderful metal sculptures in the paddock and in The Barley Barn there’s a dramatic photographic exhibition and an eclectic collection of natural objects curated by my talented brother-in-law.

nature collection

Consequently this past week we’ve been tidying barns, sweeping the yard and hiding away all the broken bits and pieces we don’t want out on show. Bill has been making a plinth for a dragon and I’m trying to devise a Mystery Treasure Trail involving hens and lost eggs. As you do.

If you haven’t visited a farm lately, put 7th June in your diary and find out about the story behind our food. To find out which farms in your area are taking part, visit www.farmsunday.org.