Last of the Summer Roses

The roses in the garden are reaching the end of flowering with more dead heads than flowers and green rosehips forming. They’ve lasted well this year, but along with most of the flowers in the garden, they’re past their best for this summer.

rose petals

Each year there’s a bit of a battle between Beth and I to see who can pick the roses first.

I use a few petals to make Rose Petal Jam, flavour milk jellies and syllabubs or to make a pink hued lemon squash . This year, my favourite use for rose petals has been in a Turkish Delight Posset, so called only because I associate rose flavour with Turkish Delight. Possets are incredibly easy to make and delicious to eat though being little more than cream and sugar aren’t an everyday pudding. Unfortunately.Slamseys Rose Gin

Meanwhile, Beth picks buckets of rose petals for her Rose Gin. If you follow Slamseys on Instagram, you may have noticed we have regular gin tastings when we try cocktails, taste new flavours or re-evaluate the existing range. Last week, we sampled the first 2016 batches of Rose Gin and Elderflower Gin, concluding  that while equal measures of Rose Gin and Elderflower Gin, shaken with ice and a good squeeze of lime juice makes a delightfully floral drink, Elderflower Delight is hard to beat on a sunny evening.

skyfall wheat

As the garden tips from midsummer abundance to straggly plants and seedheads, we wait for the wheat and barley to ripen on the farm. Every day, the weather forecast is listened to on the radio, watched on television and then checked on the internet in the hope that one of them will predict dry sunny days. Ears of wheat are rubbed between hands, the chaff blown away from cupped palms and the grains bitten to see if they’ve hardened. The harvest contractors are consulted to check where we are on their schedule and anticipation builds that harvest might soon start. Maybe just a few days to wait. Then a night of rain sets everything back and the routine starts again.

Yesterday, Bill took the moisture meter down from the shelf, which is always a sign that harvest is very imminent and after testing some barley, declared it should be ready at the beginning of next week. However, the only way into these fields is through an old farmyard that the owner has developed into a range of smart offices and negotiating first an enormous combine through the tightly packed car park and then a succession of tractors and trailers is rather tricky. As a consequence, these fields are only harvested at the weekend, when the car park is deserted, and so Bill has to decide whether to harvest on Sunday when the barley may not be quite ready or wait until the following weekend, when yield and quality may have fallen or the contractor may not be available or it might rain.

Decisions, decisions.

Elderflower Delight

Oh, sod it. Pass the gin.

 

Turkish Delight Posset

This is a rich dessert that will serve four, though I often put it into shot glasses accompanied by a shortbread type biscuit, in which case it will easily stretch to six.

300 ml double cream
50g caster sugar
Rose petals
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons Elderflower Gin*

Snip the rose petals from the flowers leaving behind the tough base of each petal. I use one or two roses depending on their size and how scented they are, so use your own judgement on how subtle you want the taste to be.

Put the cream, sugar and rose petals into a pan, stirring to dissolve the sugar and bring slowly to the boil. Boil for 3 minutes and then remove from the heat. Whisk in the lemon juice and elderflower gin, strain into a jug and leave to cool for 10 minutes.

Pour into small glasses or dishes and chill for at least four hours.

 

*Replace with Elderflower Cordial for a non-alcoholic version

 

 

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flower challenge

snowdrops

Snowdrops. A little bunch of happiness sitting ona sunny windowsill. A sign of hope that the wind and rain will eventually blow away and spring will come.

A couple of years ago, I tried each week to pick a bunch of flowers from the garden or fields to bring into the house. Some weeks my bunches were very, very small – think more buttonhole than bouquet – and if the flowers still looked good after the week ended then they sometimes counted for the following week too. Actually, even if they didn’t look that good, they stayed some weeks as I realised that a little decay can be tolerated. It was fun and made me appreciate what’s growing around the place so I thought I’d give it another go this year.

This time I’m being rather more realistic and aim to keep a bunch of something fresh in the house for most of the time. January proved a little difficult as my garden is pretty much all dirt and bare branches but I found a couple of things to pick. Before you ask – that is a rose that I picked a few days ago and fresh things left to dry can also count.

Do you have fresh flowers in your house? Are they home picked?

a glorious week

roses growing over arch

When the first job of the day is to go into the garden to pick roses (for Slamseys Gin), I don’t think life can get much better. Added to that, we’ve had a glorious week of hot, sunny days, partied all weekend in marquees set in beautiful gardens, watched the Lions and Andy Murray to victory, walked in glorious countryside and harvested fruit and vegetables from the garden. I should perhaps add that in this Pollyanna mode, I’m ignoring the fact that the fox ate another of my hens, the weeds are rampaging through the garden, the washing is piled up, the housework is neglected and there’s a heap of paperwork on my desk that needs attention.

Brasted Hill

This glorious week started with a few days walking. Having finished the Norfolk Coast Path, we’ve started to walk The North Downs Way that follows the chalk ridge across the south east of England for 153 miles, from Farnham in Surrey to Dover on the Kent coast.

foxgloves

We walked in the shade of woodland, through vineyards and across open downs, dropped down to cross rivers at the bottom of the valley and climbed back up to the ridge. Along the way, at the edge of a wood we found a cottage, with smoke curling up from the chimney pot and I fancied  that at any moment Little Red Riding Hood would come tripping along basket in hand to visit Grandma inside the cottage. Bill thought I was completely bonkers. No change there.

tree house North Downs WayWe passed make believe houses hidden in trees

 Inglis Folly, Colley Hilland ate lunch in grand follies. Life slowed down for a few days. We journeyed on foot or buses and trains, ignored the emails and just enjoyed the surroundings. If you’re planning to walk this route, there’s some brief notes about our days here.

When we returned home the garden had sprung to life. This is the first week that we’ve been able to sit down to a supper that’s entirely home produced. Scotch eggs, new potatoes, salads of beetroot, carrot, peas and rocket followed by gooseberry compote. No matter how simple the food, there’s nothing better than eating a meal that (mostly) was still growing half an hour beforehand with a vase of flowers freshly picked from the garden to decorate the table.

Slamseys Strawberry Gin

And now, if you’ll excuse me, I must help make this Rose Petal Gin. And then, as we have some freshly picked strawberries in the kitchen and basil growing in the greenhouse, we may need to celebrate this glorious week with a Strawberry Gin & Tonic with basil leaves and black pepper.