Saturday, 20 June 2009

Herbal Teas and Fruit Cordial

The weather yesterday (and today) has been very showery, with blustery winds.  So I only managed to get to the vegetable plot briefly yesterday - I did need to reinforce and tie up the peas which had been a bit battered by the wind.  I decided to dig up one potato plant (Pentland Javelin) to check if we can begin to harvest them , and looking at the potatoes in the basket, the answer is yes.
I'm not feeling too well today, and even though the weather is forecast to dry up, I don't think I will be gardening - I find extreme dizziness a handicap when weeding!  I really don't want to pitch head first into the tomato plants.

So instead I decided to do gentle jobs in the house, as I'm not the kind of person who can sit around for long.  I didn't get off to a good start when, while mixing up a blancmange, I absent-mindedly put the plastic jug containing the mixture on the hob instead of putting it in the pan and then on the hob.  Cue flames and the smell of burning plastic...

So, having extinguished the flames and thrown the jug in the bin, on to a sitting down job - sorting out my herbal teas.  I'm a big fan of herbal teas and their benefits for various medical complaints.   I wanted to make up some mixtures of herbs for things like the virus I'm currently suffering from.  I had dried some nettles and sweet woodruff earlier in the year, so they needed detaching from their stalks and breaking up.  

The first jar on the left is marigolds, which I bought a little while ago and were still sitting in the packet.  This is a good tea for helping clear the lymph system, quite nice with honey.  The jar at the back contains my anti-viral, anti-infection and tonic tea - nettles (harvested recently and dried), rosemary (from my rosemary bush), marshmallow, sweet woodruff (from my garden).  The other two contain damiana and marshmallow (reputed to be anti-ageing!).  At the front are a few sticks of licorice.  At this point I ran out of jars, will carry on when I have washed some more.
By the time I finished the herbs, I was feeling a bit better so decided to make some fruit cordial. I need to clear out my freezer for defrosting before this year's fruit deluge begins in a few weeks, but still had some redcurrants and blackcurrants left.  I drink fruit cordial regularly, so why not make my own from my own fruit? 

The recipe I used called for 13 oz black/redcurrants, 10 oz sugar and 1 3/4 pints water.  My fruit was frozen so I was stingy with the water - to be honest, the thicker the cordial the better.  Put it in a pan, heat while stirring to dissolve the sugar and until the fruit is soft/broken, simmer for a minute or so to ensure sterilisation, then pour through a sieve into a bowl.  Mash the fruit to extract as much juice as possible.

I sterilised two old cordial bottles by washing them, then placing them in the oven on a low heat.  As the first batch was finished, I realised I needed my funnel to pour the mixture in the bottles, but could I find it?  So instead I had to ladle it into the bottle with a small ladle, the bottle positioned carefully over the bowl to catch as many drips as possible.  I ended up with small puddles of cordial left over.  So if you do this, be prepared, not like me!

The result was a bottle each of redcurrant (left) and blackcurrant (right) plus extra redcurrant in a jug to be used immediately.  I'll keep them in the fridge as there are no preservatives in them.  This was fun, but I am now pretty tired, so am going to spend the rest of the day on the sofa with my knitting.  Hope to get in the garden tomorrow.
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