"I wonder what it would be like to live in a word where it was always June."
We may have slipped quietly into July, however the resonance of Montgomery's musings remain .. a world of eternal summer sounds like the most glorious place (however I do maintain that Autumn is my forever most glorious British season).
Let us not digress.
In celebration of summer, nature and all creatures great and small, we have just launched our new 'sister' instagram page dedicated to the wonders that surround us. The beauty is that you really never need go much further than your own garden, or peek under a rock on your way to school. Nature is in abundance around us, we just need to take a moment to look up - or down 🐌
Slugs and snails are a point of constant fascination. Not only do they travel everywhere with their magnificent mobile homes on their back, within which we can only assume they have packed a spare change of clothes and the kitchen sink, but they also amazingly have more teeth than a shark. Up to 27,000 to be precise. ** Fortuitously they don't brandish them in the same way as it could make a trip down the end of the garden somewhat trepidatious. **
Slugs and snails belong to a class of animal called Gastropoda. Their spikes in their mouths don’t fit the strict definition of ‘teeth’ but technicalities aside, they help slugs, snails and limpets to eat.
Slugs and snails are essential to the food chain in nature. They provide food for mammals, birds, slow worms, earthworms, insects ...it's no wonder they so rapidly retreat into their shells when you come to say "hello". When they are not fighting for survival, they help widely ecologically by consuming decomposing vegetation.
I know they also like your lovely plants, but if you can find a way to make peace with slugs and snails or avoid using harmful pellets to get rid of them, then please know that hedgehogs love them and you are inadvertently harming our beautiful most prickly friends by eradicating the more sluggish.
Another wonderful arrival in late Spring, early Summer, is the elderflower. Loved by those avoiding alcohol in a truly refreshing long drink with ice form, or those embracing alcohol in a delightful gin, elderflower and prosecco cocktail form.
Regardless of how you like to mix it, elderflower tastes of summer ☀️
So why not have summer on tap all year round by bottling your own. Given that it is so beautifully simple and will make your friends swoon there is no excuse not be out foraging for Elderflowers before the season passes.
25-30 elderflower heads, freshly picked
1 kg sugar
The day before you want to make the cordial
Lay the unwashed elderflower heads on a tray to let any bugs crawl out.
Remove any flower heads that look brown, snip off any larger, thicker green stems.
Put the kettle on to boil.
Put the elderflowers into a large, heatproof bowl. Slice the lemons into it.
Squeeze the juice from the lemons and oranges and put it in a covered container in the fridge until the next day.
Pour 1½ litres of boiling water from the kettle over the elderflowers and zest.
Stir, then cover and leave overnight.
Making the cordial
Sterilise your bottles:
Wash your bottles and lids in hot, soapy water then rinse and drain them.
Put the oven on its lowest setting and place the bottles on a baking tray inside (lay on their sides if necessary).
Turn off the oven when the bottles are hot, but leave inside until the cordial is ready.
Line a sieve with a piece of folded cheesecloth or muslin and place the sieve over a large saucepan.
Tip in the contents of the bowl. Press down with a spoon to push all the liquid out of the elderflowers and zest, then discard them.
Add the reserved lemon and orange juice to the liquid in the pan, along with all the sugar.
Put the saucepan over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved.
Turn up the heat and simmer the cordial for 3-5 minutes.
Carefully pour the elderflower cordial into the hot sterilised bottles: use a jug or funnel if necessary.
Put on the lids and leave to cool before storing in the fridge.
Add a splash or two, undiluted, to fruit salads or anything with gooseberries or dilute one part cordial to two parts water for fragrant ice lollies.
Et .... voila.
Come rain or shine, we shall be impossible to defeat with our elderflower cordial 💚