A taste of summer (even when it rains)

Cliodhna Prendergast brews up a batch of meadowsweet cordial and jelly

17_MeadowsweetRain jackets, tennis rackets, horse shoes, wetsuits, chicken pox and tonsillitis are some of the things that have featured heavily this summer in Connemara.

But also blackcurrants, meadowsweet and dinners with friends; chilly barbecues, honeysuckle and gooseberries, piglets and muck. Laughter and rain showers, visitors and wellington boots.

It has not been the best summer for sunny beach days, but we have managed to enjoy ourselves nonetheless.

I went to a friend’s house recently for dinner, and it was the nicest dinner I’d had for an age. For desert we had an elderflower and grape jelly with ginger ice cream, and it was deliciously refreshing.

The scent of elderflower provided our experience of summer, offsetting the clouds and the drizzle of rain on the windows outside that has been all too familiar of late.

My friend kindly sent me the recipe for the jelly, a scan of an ancient magazine cutting, the recipe itself originally from Wild Sugar Deserts by Skye Craig and Lyndel Miller.

So I set to work making some honeysuckle cordial instead of elderflower, and adding gooseberries instead of grapes. We have passed elderflower season and gooseberries have just ripened in the garden.

I fiddled around with the measurements and added some prosecco and sparkling water (not that I’m convinced the sparkling water makes it sparkly when set).

So what I think you need to do is make a mixture of jelly liquid and measure roughly the measurements below of cordial, prosecco, lemon zest and water until you like the taste, remembering that cooling it will lessen the flavour so it should be a tiny bit too sweet and full of flavour.

Cordials often vary in strength, in bouquet and sugar content – it is for this reason I think you should make the mixture to taste.

Then measure the liquid you have and use the amount of gelatine specified on the packet to set the amount of liquid: this way you can use leaf or powdered gelatine (this recipe uses powdered gelatine). After doing several jellies, the meadowsweet was the best, but the honeysuckle came a very close second.

First to the cordial and then to the jelly.

Meadowsweet Cordial (same method for honeysuckle cordial)
Zest of a lemon to taste
Liquid to sugar 1:1 ratio – 16oz of sugar to 16floz of water
½ tsp citric acid (optional, helps the cordial stay fresh for longer)

Gather lots of meadowsweet flower heads and soak them in boiling water and a few slices of lemon. Allow to soak for 24 hours, then drain through muslin, saving the water/juice that comes out and discarding the flowers in the muslin once strained.

Measure equal amounts of sugar to liquid.

Bring to the boil, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, add the lemon zest and the citric acid if you decide to use it, bring to the boil and simmer for about 4 minutes.

Pour into sterilised bottles with good caps

17_Meadowsweet-jelly-4-0077Meadowsweet Jelly (Serves 8-10)
1ltr of liquid made up from approximately:
350ml meadowsweet cordial
350ml prosecco
350ml sparkling water
12 gooseberries
½ lemon lightly zested
A few little meadowsweet flower buds (use sparingly)
2 sachets / 24g of powdered gelatine

The buds of the meadowsweet are very strong to eat on their own, but still a few of them in the jelly gives a surprising hint of summer hedgerows.

Add the cordial, prosecco, water and lemon zest into a big jug or bowl, taste and adjust to your liking.

Get the jelly mould or glass bowl ready by oiling inside liberally with sunflower oil.

Now sprinkle a few meadowsweet buds at the base of the jelly mould.

Top and tail the gooseberries and cut in half, add to the bottom of the jelly mould, round side down (they will float to the top).

Measure out the gelatine according to the instructions on the packet, or as above. Empty into a heat proof dish. Add a small amount of the cordial mixture and heat gently, with the heat-proof dish standing in a pot of simmering water or at a low setting in the microwave until the gelatine mixture is warm and clear.

Then add a little more of the cordial mixture into the warm gelatine and mix.

Pour the gelatine mixture into the large cordial, prosecco, water mixture. Mix and pour into the jelly mould or a glass bowl.

Allow to set in the fridge for 12- 24 hours.

When set, run very briefly under warm water to loosen it and then remove from the mould to a plate.

Decorate with a few meadowsweet flowers. Ginger ice cream is a fantastic addition.