I find cooking a necessity rather than a pleasure. But preserving fulfils something primal in me. Tim and the children will attest that I am rarely happier than when boiling my shiny cauldron of a jam pan on our temperamental farmhouse Aga.
Here’s a few summer recipes from produce we pick on and around Tredethick. It may inspire you, or at least ward you away from the horrors of producing haw ketchup!
Elderflower cordial — truly, the delicate smell of summer. I think elder trees are unrated. I love their creamy cow parsley heads and generous bunches of purple berries. The blossom – at least at Tredethick – seems to grow high and upwards, so picking it provides a challenging, yet family friendly activity. We take a stepladder that’s seen better days and hoist Farmer Tim aloft midst elder tree clusters on the farm. Our toddler insists on collecting the flowers in her red toy wheelbarrow. We freeze in plastic milk cartons in the fridge. Great although, even with labelling, the kids have a tendency to ‘accidentally’ defrost cordial rather than milk. Here’s the recipe we use, acquired from a family friend. It’s beautifully un-labour-intensive:
30-40 florets of elderflower (ideally picked in sunshine)!
50 citric acid
6 good lemons
8 pints of boiling water
Steep for 24-48 hours in a large bowl. Strain through a muslin and bottle.
Bramble gin/damson vodka – we forage blackberries with the children or damsons from Farmer Jill’s tree. I use equal quantities of fruit and sugar, with a ratio of 1 part fruit, 1 part sugar to 1.25 mililitres of spirit. Clean the fruit, mix all ingredients in a bottle. Shake every week for 10 weeks, strain and store. This forms basis of the ruinous Tredethick Kir (adding a measure of the fruit spirit to sparkling white wine), not too mention a cheeky bramble G&T with Farmer Tim, to see us through the dark nights.
Apple and herb jelly — as guests will know, the orchards where the chickens and pigs roam overflow with Cornish varieties of apple in September. I produce some herb and apple jellies for cold meats and casseroles. The recipe for this and haw ketchup came from the River Cottage Handbook on preserves, with the adaptation of straining my jelly mixture through an old pillowcase (which I can hang up) or a clean baby muslim! I am obsessed with homemade redcurrant jelly on lamb or sausages. It’s quickly eaten up. For the rest of the year apple and rosemary, or apple and sage jellies (meat depending) fulfil my condiment needs. The jelly is useful for enriching casseroles sauces.
Haw ketchup – agggh! In a flush of new love, I settled on this recipe and picked a bucket of haw berries from around the farm. Lovingly, Tim agreed to help prep them. Arduous hours were spent pressing thousands of hard berries through a sieve. Never, ever again we swore at the end. Haw ketchup making went on for HOURS. The results? Underwhelming, to my taste buds at least. Leave well alone!
Ashlyn, Mrs Farmer Tim