Thursday, May 24, 2012

Elderflower Champagne

The other day I was in the library browsing the books about plants, I LOVE books about plants almost as much as plants, and I came across a book called "Wild Food" by Roger Phillips. Flipping the pages reading recipes and admiring glamor shots of  pickled sea asparagus I started to get a little inspired.

I have never been much for foraging. Don't get me wrong, I hunt chanterelles with the sprightly joy of a spasmodic wood pixie every fall, enjoy a few bowls of nettles in the spring, and have even made fiddle head fern pesto. Living off the land, the bounty of nature, I can't get enough of that stuff, but there's just something about foraging. It's like when you grow vegetables for the very first time, and stand there looking at them thinking, " but it grew out of the dirt, It came from the ground" with a little grimace on your face. Then you spend the rest of the summer trying to find 300 new delicious ways to eat the zucchini that you now have a plethora of and you get over it. But foraging food is different, it's just so primal. It feels unnatural to those of us who grew up thinking warm delicious meals come out of cardboard boxes. Hunting in the woods and using what you find for tinctures, tea, wine, and even dinner is magnificent, but the amount of gumption it takes to get pick the plant and actually make it into something can be hard to surmount. The extra little gumption I needed was living right around the corner. Spring ridge commons is a community permaculture garden in fernwood that encourages foraging and has all kinds of delicious plants, like elderflowers.

Roger Phillips can't be forgotten though, I may not make the majority of his recipes but his book is worth checking out if just for the photographs. He features native plants from the British isles prepared in lovely dishes, a few made from recipes dating back hundreds of years, sitting in the beautiful landscapes they were harvested from and along side huge chunks of roasted meats. Seriously, it is hilarious and amazingly brilliant at the same time and even though the plants are from Great Britain, similar substitutes can be found here in the PNW.

Like Elderflowers for example. Lacy white umbels from Sambucus nigra can be replaced with those of Sambucus cerulea or Sambucus racemosa, but all three are easy to find garden shrubs with such a floral profusion that no one will really notice a few gone.

Elderflower champange
loosely adapted from Roger Phillips recipe in "Wild Food"
You need:
A 1 gallon jug 
A fermenting bung and airlock
6 elderflower heads in full bloom with the pollen shaken off and the majority of the stem removed (Do not eat any other part of the plant except the berries if they are cooked, the leaves, twigs, branches, seeds, and roots contain a cyanide inducing glycoside. Look it up to better understand it.)
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 lemon
1 orange
2 teaspoons white vinegar
1. Place the flowers (with stems removed) in the jug with the juice and rind of the lemon and orange and the vinegar.
2. Dissolve the sugar in warm water and pour into the jug.
3. Fill the rest of the jug mostly full with water and cover with cheesecloth
4. Leave to steep for 4-6 days.
5. Put on the airlock and leave for another 4-6 days
6. Decant into screw top bottles

The longer you wait the more alcoholic it will be. This recipe is not really a wine though, more of a fizzy delicious beverage. Enjoy!
I added some chives in there because they were there and I couldn't help it.
Pottery by Gorden Hutchens from the Denman Island craft store
So beautiful!

No comments:

Post a Comment