In South Dakota they joke that the only months they need to lock their cars is during August and September – so that their neighbours don’t fill their back seat with spare “zucchinis”!
No such scandalous waste is permitted with the jewels of high summer. However much of a glut of strawberries one has – and we did have a bumper crop this year – they are just too precious to squander. And the great thing about strawberries is, although they involve some serious stooping, you do come away with a huge quantity very quickly.
Raspberries, however, may have a longer fruiting season. Acommitted gardener could stretch them out from late June well into October in a good year). They are altogether slower and more ponderous in their selection.
Blackcurrants are a joy – you can literally pull handfuls off at a time, and within minutes the entire bush is stripped.
Finally, there is always a sturdy selection of rhubarb sticks to be pulled – from May to August anyway, (after that you need to leave them so that the leaves replenish energy to the roots before winter). I find that between these four, literally any one can happily make a fool, cordial, vodka – or gin, ice cream or leather with the minimum of equipment or fuss. In fact, these are recipes to entice even the most kitchen-shy of cooking phobes.
A word of warning before you begin – don’t forget to label your bottles. I once found out too late that I had been administering large quantities of Raspberry Vodka – not cordial – to the vicar’s children who cheerfully consumed approximately 3 tumblers each (diluted with fizzy water, thankfully) before the spot was made!
Sloe Gin classic
You can use strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries just as well as sloes, though the inherited wisdom is to put sloes over night in the freezer first – to enhance flavour and burst their skins. I have not made this with rhubarb, but I bet it works extremely well! The only caution is that sloes (and rhubarb) are extremely tart and can take all the sugar, the sweeter berries need less
- Pick over fruit and discard any bits and bugs!
- Place in sterilised jars, shake down to get maximum quantity of fruit in vessel
- Pour over enough sugar to fill spaces between fruit (maybe not up to the top in the case of naturally sweeter fruit – try half way – you can always add sugar to taste when you decant it)!
- Top up with gin – or vodka
- Leave in dark cool cupboard for 3 months, turning when you remember (to dissolve the sugar!)
- Decant the infused gin or vodka through a muslin into smaller sterilised jars
- Label and use by-product fruit in crumble, fool or ice cream.
Raspberry / Strawberry / Blackberry / Rhubarb & Ginger Cordial
About 1 lb or 500g soft fruit
Same amount of caster sugar
3 tbsp red wine vinegar – OR – zest and juice of 1 large or 2 small lemons
(For Rhubarb & Ginger: 2 balls of stem ginger finely sliced)
- Place all ingredients in pan, stir over low heat for about 10 minutes until smooth and pulpy
- Rub through fine sieve with a muslin (or J cloth) lining it into another clean pan
- Tip out seeds from sieve back into original pan, add 300ml of water to slacken and wash off remaining fruit pulp
- Pour through sieve and muslin again, adding to original fruit pulp
- Place pan on heat, stir well and bring gently up to boiling for one minute
- Pour into sterilised bottles and label (Makes about 750 ml, keeps for a few months – once opened, refrigerate)
- Dilute to taste with fizzy water, and a squeeze or slice of lemon or sprig of mint.
This is such a cheat I hardly dare include it as it totally blows my cover.
1 pot best fresh custard – approx 500ml
1 pot double cream (usually 300ml) or thick Greek yoghurt (usually 450ml)
1 lb or approx 500g chosen fruit
Sugar to taste
Lemon or orange zest enhances the sweeter berries
- If you are using either Rhubarb or Gooseberries then they need to be gently cooked in a splash of water, over a low heat until they collapse. A winning flavour combination with the former is sweetening with the syrup from a stem ginger jar, while with the latter, using elderflower cordial, instead of sugar, is a complete winner. Push through a sieve or mouli and allow to cool. Otherwise, mash and sieve your chosen fruit into the custard. (Or, if in a hurry, blitz fruit with hand blender and leave in pips!)
- Add sugar, if required, to taste.
- In a separate bowl, whip the double cream until it thickens and holds its “peaks” (Greek yoghurt requires no such whipping)
- Gently fold fruit curd into whipped cream / Greek yoghurt until well combined
- Decant into chosen serving bowl – or individual glasses or bowls
- Chill in fridge
- Serve with thin almond or ginger biscuits on the side and optional sprig of mint or fine paring of citrus zest on top
Easy Ice Cream
This is roughly the same as the easy fool, only churned and frozen! The dairy component can be half custard and half cream or all custard or all double cream, and overall, my quantities tend to end up being, very roughly, half fruit and half dairy.
Recently, our son used our ice cream churner and created a sublime strawberry ice cream using roughly 750g strawberries, a 600ml pot of double cream and a third of a jar of runny, home-made strawberry jam. It was unbelievable! He whizzed up the over ripe strawberries using the hand blender, poured on the double cream and slushy jam, re-whizzed it up in a large jug then carefully poured this mixture into the ice cream churner as it was churning. 20 minutes later, hey presto!
If you don’t have a bespoke churner, whip the cream separately, pour in the fruit pulp, mix well then pour into a large plastic lunch box. Freeze for an hour or so, until just starting to go hard. Take out and blitz again with your hand blender and then pour into your serving dish / es. Re-freeze. Take out and leave to soften in fridge slightly before serving.
This is literally child’s play and perfect for lunch boxes.
1lb or ½ kg soft fruit
2 eating apples, peeled and cored
oil for greasing shallow baking tray
- Put fruit in a pan, put on lid and cook gently for about 10 minutes until really soft
- Push pulp through a sieve onto a baking tray, lined with greased baking parchment
- Smooth pulp around to about ½ cm deep
- Place in coolest possible oven – about 50 degrees C – over night, until fully reduced into a chewy mat
- Allow to cool then cut into ruler width slices
- Roll up each slice tightly – swiss roll style – and wrap with parchment
- Smugly unwrap at work and enjoy in full view of admiring colleagues