How to Drink Your Garden. Six on Saturday 6-10-2018

We’ve had a few frosts in this neck of the woods and the growing season is pretty much over for another year, *author emits an audible sigh of relief*. The question now is what to do with any excess produce?

Pumpkins and courgettes have been brought inside to store. Beans and peas blanched and frozen along with colourful bags of soft fruit. The larder shelves are groaning with jars of jam and chutney; but still I always find at this time of year there is an abundance of food left, which if isn’t used soon will go to waste.

The answer I have discovered is to drink it! From fruit flavoured liqueurs to warming fruit teas and vitamin packed vegetable juices, glugging down your garden produce is the ideal way to make sure your efforts on the plot are not in vain.

So here’s my list of the six most quaffable things from my garden this weekend. Drink it in!

1- Blackcurrant cordial, juice and tea

What a revelation drinking blackcurrants has been. The juice mixed with freshly pressed apples has completely replaced orange juice in our diet at home. I also make cordial by boiling the fruit with sugar and water before bottling and this means no more buying Ribenna from the supermarket. I’ve been downing both with great gusto over the last few weeks and I have not yet succumbed to any winter flu-bugs, which I attribute to the fruit’s high vitamin C content.

Blackcurrants have such an intense flavour, they respond well to a second extraction. After making the juice I have been taking the leftover pulp and simmering it with other fruit and spices to make a range of herbal teas. Pictured below left is blackcurrant and apple tea with cinnamon and cloves, perfect if you are suffering with a cold – and delightful even if you are not.

2 – Vegetable juice

There’s nothing quite like vegetables fresh from the garden to cook into delicious and nutritious meals but even the most avid healthy eater will find there are some you just can’t fit on the plate.  Sometimes, especially if I’ve had a particulary sedentary day, I struggle to get in the recommended 5-a-day. So bring on the juicer! The great benefit is that you can stuff in all the odds and ends of garden veg like carrot tops, beetroot greens and the colourful stalks of rainbow chard. Just fling them in along with some apples and hey presto power juice. It’ll give you all the energy you need to get out in the garden and grow some more.

3 – Apples

Growing apples is easy but storing them is problematic. We have ours in a variety of holding stations in the hope of outwitting potential storage problems. Windfalls are juiced as soon as possible. Depending on the variety, the resulting drink can be tart or sweet but never anything less than delicious when freshly pressed. I tend to juice a batch and freeze some, reusing the leftover pulp in herbal teas as described above. All my small apples, too tiny to bother to peel and core for sauce or chutney, are stored in trays in the barn ready to be turned into fresh juice when required. They should keep for months but mice are a problem in our outbuildings and tiny nibble holes quickly turn the fruit bad and if left unchecked the whole tray can catch the rot. Larger apples but with imperfections on the skin, which mean they store badly, are in the larder waiting to be turned into chutney. The perfect ones, destined for any future use we might desire, are in the barn in a giant trunk to thwart the thieving rodents. We may decide to forget the whole troublesome storing issue and turn the whole lot into cider. Cheers.

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4 – Thyme

If only I had as much spare in my daily life as I do in the garden. Thyme is a popular culinary herb but also widely used in herbal medicine. It is strongly antiseptic and a powerful expectorant which makes it an ideal treatment for winter coughs and colds. To make thyme syrup simmer 2 oz of the herb in a litre of water, cool and strain then slowly reduce to 200 ml and add 1lb of honey (recipe simplified from Herbal Remedies by Christopher Hedley and Non Shaw). Can be taken on its own or added to sweeten some of the drinks above.

5 –  Rosemary and Sage

Next on the list are another two kitchen garden herbs that also have medicinal uses. Sage is antiseptic, ideal for treating sore throats and a useful tonic for tiredness. Rosemary is a stimulant, purported to improve circulation and ease headaches. I enjoy both as a quick herbal tea simply by pouring hot water over a few leaves in a mug.

 

6 – Fruit liqueurs

How about using some of the excess fruit in your garden to turn a cheap bottle of spirit into something truly luxurious. In years past I have made raspberry vodka, bramble whisky and sloe gin simply by steeping the fruit in alcohol for a period of time and adding sugar. This year I have added Creme Cassis to the drinks menu, a sweet dark red liqueur made from blackcurrants. It should be ready about Christmas time … perfect timing.

 

If you would like more information or recipes for any of the drinks mentioned here please let me know in the comments section below. Or if you simply enjoyed reading this post and would like to see more like it head over to The Propagator website.

23 thoughts on “How to Drink Your Garden. Six on Saturday 6-10-2018

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  1. What beautiful ideas! Thank you !
    About apples, my father stored them in a shed at 8°C with no light and to avoid the mice he made a whole cage in very fine mesh that covered the boxes. He has been quiet for years and the apples were kept until February March.

    1. Yes this sounds similar to how we keep them in the barn but in a box rather than wire mesh. Will be about 8c now but get much colder although I don’t think that’s a problem. Maybe some varieties store better than others

  2. We lived on an old farmstead off grid for awhile when I was younger. There was an abandoned orchard of trees that bore delicious yellow apples. Those were soft apples, not long keepers, so I made and canned (on the wood stove) large quantities of applesauce, apple butter, and simple cored and quartered apples, in their own juice. I was blessed and inspired by many half gallon Mason jars found in an old barn. My cupboards were full of canned apples and canned foraged blackberries, which I had so many of that I graded by size and quality, canning blackberry juice from the lower grades. I wish I had pictures now of those beautiful jars of fruit. Not nearly the variety of fruits and vegetables you have in your garden, but still so helpful in winter. The last few winters, I have made sage infused honey with my sage, which I think helps ward off illnesses.

    1. Canning and bottling is not something I have tried yet but would love to in the future. You are right it would be perfect for my apples which don’t store well. The sage infused honey sounds delicious!

      1. Canning is not as hard as it may seem. Admittedly, it helped me a lot to find all the jars in the barn. I also reused lids, which of course you are not supposed to do, but we lived, and I don’t remember having to throw out any spoiled jars. I like canning for food storage because there is no future reliance on energy. And the shelf life can be long. We were eating our canned fruit for a few years after leaving the farm, when I was a poor single mom and it really continued to be helpful. “”Bottling” is a relative term, I think. I never had any bottles, but I canned juice right along with the fruit. I didn’t ask anyone if juice had to be preserved differently, just used what I had. LOL.

      2. Yes absolutely I’d love to experiment with canning exactly because there is no reliance on a fridge or freezer to keep it – especially here where the power supply can be temperamental!

    1. I use the continuous juicer attachment on my Kenwood Chef to juice small quantities of apples. If I decide to make cider with the lot I will borrow a apple press and crusher from a neighbour who has one, luckily.

  3. Totally share the blackcurrant love and I’ve done cordial and cassis too. I’d be interested in your recipes for both because I don’t think I’ve perfected either. Never thought to do a second extraction with them either, just mixed the pulp with other fruit and ate it.

    1. The cordial recipe I use is this one – https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/blackcurrant-cordial .

      This is the first year I have made cassis so I can’t vouch for the recipe but I’m following this – http://allrecipes.co.uk/recipe/15816/blackcurrant-liqueur–cr-me-de-cassis-.aspx

      I use my own recipes for the second extraction where I make herbal teas. Put about 2 handfuls of fruit pulp (blackcurrant and apple or raspberry is good) with your herbs of choice into a large saucepan, about the size of a pressure cooker. For herbs in winter ginger, cinnamon and cloves is good or thyme and sage. In summer you might enjoy mint, lemon balm and lemons but the possibilities are endless.

      Fill the pressure cooker with water and simmer for about 20 mins. Sweeten to taste. Strain and keep in jugs in the fridge. In winter I like to reheat the drink a mugful at a time as required but in summer its nice to drink them cold like the iced fruit tea you can buy in the supermarkets in plastic bottles.

      Let me know how you get on!

  4. Ahhh, love everything about this! I will definitely be bookmarking that cordial recipe. We began juicing veg with fruits a few years back. The amount they charge in stores for what we produce is astounding. My favorite photo is of your little sweetie up in the tree. So darling!

    1. Yes the cordial recipe is great, so simply! And yes it is satisfying to see the price of juices in the supermarket – although we do ‘pay’ for it making it at home in terms of time and washing up. But definitely worth it

  5. What a wonderful post full of great ideas. Not much gets wasted at your place! There are certainly a lot of apples to be used…love the photo of the little imp up in the bounteous apple tree!

  6. Ok that wasn’t too bad. Only one use of blitzed vegetables! Yuck! That 10 year old boy is alive and well inside me somewhere. The rest of it sounds superb. Come the zombie apocalypse you’ll be well sorted. 🤣

  7. Back in the stone age when I was a kid, my parents had an orchard, vineyard & enormous garden, plus farm animals. When it came time to can, my mother put us in an assembly line, each of us having a different stage in the process, ending w/her & the pressure cooker. She even canned sausage. As to reusing lids, I think the problem there is the seal. If the lid is even slightly bent during removal, the seal won’t be sound in reuse, which can lead to spoiled produce. Loved all these recipes & the healing properties that go w/them.

    1. Lovely image of your childhood! Getting the kids involved and helping them appreciate where their food comes from and effort that goes into production is brilliant. Thanks for advise re canning, I will bear in mind when I eventually look at this project….

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