Seek and you shall find

Siobhan Buchanan brings us some foraged soft drink goodness

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Spring and summer are glorious months; the new green leaves on the trees lining the pavements, the colourful flowers blooming everywhere you look, and the gorgeous cherry blossoms raining down as you take an afternoon walk. These warm months also bring an abundance of ingredients to forage, and not just for cooking - there are so many drinks you can make using foraged goods. 


ICED TEA

I love taking long walks and lining my pockets with various lovely leaves to make a refreshing tea when I get home. All of the following options work well hot, but during the summer months I like to take the brew out into the garden to cool down and enjoy the (somewhat limited up here in Scotland) rays of sunshine. These are a few of my favourite combinations, but feel free to tweak - please hit me up on Twitter @britishbeergirl and share your concoctions with me. 

1. Gather your tasty plants and flowers - any mix of the following is excellent: rose petals (wild dog rose is especially nice); pineapple weed (the buds taste like chamomile and pineapple); nettle; mint; gorse flower; cleavers (better known as ‘sticky willies’ - yes you can eat them, and they’re good for detoxing); blackberry leaves; and dandelion petals. 

2. Give your bounty a gentle rinse to get rid of any wildlife or dirt that may be lurking on it. 

3. Throw into a teapot with a strainer attachment. If this isn’t an option, a cafetiere works well too. 

4. Fill with boiling water. If you like your tea sweet, add a teaspoon of honey or sugar. 

5. Leave to cool for half an hour. 

6. Pour into your favourite glass, add a sprig of mint/slice of lemon or orange, some ice cubes, and you’re ready to go. 

Top tip: If you want a more rich and strong iced tea, add some of your favourite black tea into the mix. 

BERRY CORDIAL

There will be no measurements here, because every time I have made a berry cordial, I have had a different amount and combination of berries - it all depends on which route I take on my walks, and what’s growing there. 

1. Find some plump, ripe, delicious berries; near me there are always blackberries to be snaffled, and there are a few wild raspberry patches too (remember not to pick more than you need - the birds and other wildlife need these to munch on too). 

2. Place your berries in a saucepan. Cover with water, stir in a couple tablespoons of sugar or honey (start off with a small amount and increase as per your own tastes), and cook on a low heat for 10-15 minutes until the fruit starts to get mushy. 

3. You could also add some elderflower if it’s in season, or a pod or two of vanilla if you want to be fancy.

4. Zest and juice a lime or two (depends how much cordial you’re making) and add to the mixture; stir gently for another couple of minutes until everything is smelling delicious. 

5. Pour your mixture through a sieve and a funnel into sterilised bottles, and store in the fridge - it’ll keep for a couple of weeks, or even longer if you don’t open it. 

6. Serve in champagne flutes, topped with soda water, tonic, or lemonade - or even prosecco - and a lemon twist, and all your mates will love you forever. 

Top tip: use the leftover berry mush as a topper for yoghurt and granola at breakfast time. 


ELDERFLOWER CHAMPAGNE

And now for the mother of all foraged drinks - the fragrant, delicate elderflower champagne. This one takes a bit more patience, as you need to let it ferment for a few weeks, but boy is it worth it. 

1. Get your shit together - you’ll need a sterile 5-litre bucket (or five 1-litre plastic bottles), a lemon zester or potato peeler, and a big sterile spoon for stirring. 

2. Go for a walk and gather about 8-10 large heads of elderflower blossoms; when you get home, rinse lightly to get rid of any bugs and muck - but don’t rinse too aggressively, as you’ll get rid of all the lovely natural yeast and pollen on the plant, which is what causes the drink to ferment. Then carefully trim the flowers from the stalks. 

3. Zest and juice 2-4 lemons (depends how dry and sharp you want your drink to be - I’ll leave this up to you). 

4. Dissolve 500-750g granulated sugar in 1 litre of warm water (again, depends on how sharp you want your drink to be - I prefer less sugar); leave to cool for a few minutes, then add to your bucket, with another 4 litres of cool water. 

5. Add a tablespoon of white wine vinegar to the bucket, then throw in all the lemon bits - juice, zest, and sad lemon carcasses - and give it all a good stir. 

6. Sit the lid on top of your Bucket of Joy, but don’t close completely - you don’t want it to be airtight, as the natural gasses need to escape; leave for six days in a dark corner of the kitchen, and remember to visit it every day for a good sniff and a stir. 

7. Strain the liquor through a muslin cloth and transfer into sanitised wine or beer bottles using a funnel, leaving a good inch or two of space at the top of the bottles, and seal. 

8. Sadly, it’s time to put these babies back into the dark corner again; this time for at least a week, ideally two. Visit every day to burp them (open the bottles to let any excess CO2 escape) and give words of encouragement. You’ll know it’s ready when there’s loads of gas making that fizzy sound as you open the bottles. If you’re not ready to drink it yet, pop it in the fridge, as this will slow/stop it fermenting. 

Bonus boozy cocktail: 

WILD GARLIC VODKA

Collect some stems and leaves of wild garlic (or few-flowered leek if that’s what’s abundant near you - few-flowered leek has a more oniony taste, and its leaves are thinner), pop a handful into a bottle with a big glug of your favourite vodka, and leave to soak for 24-48 hours. Use as a base for a tasty Bloody Mary, or mix with rich tomato passatta for Penne alla Vodka.


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