Dandelion Wine

dandelion wine

I made this wine while self-isolating for 14 days. My friend suggested that dandelions have the right PH level for counteracting the Coronavirus. I am doubtful of such claims but it made me feel I was doing something to help myself and taking control of a scary situation.

You will need

1 unwaxed orange

1 unwaxed lemon

3 litres in volume of fresh young dandelion flowers washed and dried (this amount proved difficult to get in lockdown but thankfully my neighbours helped out by collecting there flowers and throwing them over the fence in plastic bags)

4.5 litres of water

1.25kg of granulated sugar

7g of wine yeast

Campden Tablet

Peel the fruit, removing as much of the pith as possible and put the peel with the flowers into a muslin bag (old shirt or tights will suffice) Tie the end of the parcel with string and boil in the water for 15-20 minutes.

Remove the bag and squeeze it over the pan. Be careful not to scald yourself. Add the sugar to the liquid. Once dissolved, empty the liquid into a large plastic container and add the juice of the fruit. Once the liquid has cooled to blood temperature, add the yeast.

Cover and leave it for 3 days in a warm place. Then siphon into a demi-john. Put on an airlock and leave it in a warm dark place such as an airing cupboard.

Once the bubbles have stopped popping in the airlock then siphon the wine into another demi-john. Be careful not to disturb the sediment in the bottom.

Pop in a campden tablet and leave to clear. One the liquid is looking clear and golden then siphon it into sterilised bottles and cork it.

Leave to mature for about a year! By this time then let’s hope Covid 19 is a distant memory and we can just enjoy some lovely wine with friends.


Spiced, Pickled, pears

pearsGolden pears are ripening on my little tree, given to me as a leaving present from my last job. Here is a recipe to make the most of this autumnal bounty.

3lbs of cooking pears

slightly salted cold water

1 pint of distilled white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon of ground mixed spice

!/2 teaspoon of nutmeg (I used mace)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

11b granulated sugar

peel of 1/2 lemon

lemon spices vinegar sugarpeel, quarter and core the pears and place in the pan of salted water to prevent them going brown

mix the spices with a little of the vinegar

put the rest of the vinegar the lemon peel and the sugar in another pan, heat gently until the sugar is dissolved then add the spice mixture

rinse the pears and add them to the pan, simmer gently until the pears go clear. This may take longer than you imagine.

take the pears out of the mixture with a slotted spoon, pack into warmed, clean, glass jars

boil the vinegar until it becomes a syrup and pour over the pears until it covers them.

seal the jars.

This recipe was a way of keeping pears through the winter months. The pears can be served with cold meets or cheese and are super tasty.



Move over Kirstie Allsopp.

Christmas gifts.What can be better than a homemade Christmas present? So the chutney is so lemony it makes your ears squeak. The elixir is overly potent and my friend swears she will kill me if I give her husband any more feathers but I know the recipients of these gifts will enjoy a little of the countryside being bought into their homes during this season of confinement, especially when the gifts are wrapped in my potato printed homemade wrapping paper.

potato printed wrapping paper

potato printed wrapping paper

Hurrah, Kirstie Allsopp, see my festive delights and weep.

Lavender Chutney

lavender chutneyThere’s no question about it, autumn is in the air. The starlings are gathering, the blackberry’s are ripening, the nights are drawing in. Free food is dripping from every hedgerow and who am I to ignore my instinctual need to gather this harvest before winter sets in? This week I found a recipe to deal with the mass of lavender that sprouts all over my front garden.

You will need

  • 20 lavender flowers, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of mustard seeds
  • 3 lemons scrubbed and chopped into small pieces
  • salt
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 oz sultanas
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • pinch ground allspice
  • sugar to taste
  • white wine vinegar

chop the lemon peel and flesh into small pieces removing the pips and pith. Place in a mixing bowl and sprinkle with salt. cover the lemons with vinegar and leave for 24 hours. Next day place the mixture in a pan and add the rest of the ingredient. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer. The mixture is ready when you can run a wooden spoon down the centre as it does not fill up with vinegar. Remove the cinnamon stick and pour into warm jars. Seal tightly.

This is a spicy and unusual chutney which goes well with meat and cheese.

Medlar Jelly


Medlars By Jules Grandgagnage (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This spicy jelly is best made after frost has allowed the apples to blett. It is well worth the effort and would go well with cold meat, cheese or on toast. It is the perfect taste for Christmas.

Medlars are brown, hard fruits which are native to England and can sometimes be found growing wild in hedgerows. I picked mine from the apple orchard at Othona in Essex and left them in my cellar for a few weeks to blett. This is a process where they become soft and brown. The frost seems to have the same effect and we have experienced that even in Kent this year. Once bletted the fruit looks rotten but don’t despair this is when it is at its best.

You will need

41bs medlars

3 pints of water

1 large lemon

sugar (as per instructions below)


Wash and chop the medlars and put into a large saucepan with enough water to cover them. Simmer slowly until you are left with a brown pulp. Strain the pulp through a scalded jelly bag or pair of tights. I found the juice did not run easily so gave it lots of squeezing. Measure the juice and weigh out 12oz sugar for every pint.

Put the sugar in a bowl and place this in a cool over until warm and dry. Add the lemon juice to the pan of juice and bring to the boil. Stir in the warm sugar and stir without boiling until it has all dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the liquid rapidly until the setting point has been reached. (about 25 minutes) Skim off the scum and pour into warm sterilised jars.



Rosehip Syrup

rosehip-syrupHere in England the clocks have gone back, the nights are drawing in and Autumn is upon us. It is time to gather in the remaining fruit from the hedgerows and prepare for the season of colds and sore throats and what better health tonic do you need than Rosehip syrup. One rosehip contains 30 times the vitamin c of an orange, so I am fond of quoting on guided walks. Just think what a whole spoonful of this stuff can do.

You needrosehips

1kg rosehips

2 litres of water (plus another litre for a second boil)

450g granulated white sugar.

Prep the rosehips by removing the stalk, cutting them into two and removing most of the seeds and small hairs. Do this with a knife and try not to touch the hairs too much, there is a reason that small children of yesteryear used the hairs as itching powder.

Chop the rosehips up a bit smaller and then throw them in a pan with the 2litres of boiling water.

Bring the water back to the boil and then take of the heat and let it steep for 15 minutes

Pour the juice into a jelly bag or some old tights and let the juice drip through.

Put the mush back into the pan with another litre of water and go through the process again to extract more goodness.

Pour the juice into a pan and reduce until you have about 1 litre left.

Once the juice has reduced, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves.

Bottle in sterilised warm jars.

It can also be frozen for later in the winter.



Plum and Mulled Wine Jam

tasty plum jam with cherry beer brewing in the background

tasty plum jam with cherry beer brewing in the background

It’s harvest time and the hedgerows are bursting with so much fruit that I can’t keep up. Kent is blessed with many old orchards, some now abandoned or turned into community orchards where the fruit is available for anyone to pick. I scurried away from Iwade yesterday with a bag of Victoria plums with which to make this great recipe.

You Need

  • 1/8 kg or 41b of plums halved and stoned
  • 375 ml or 13flo oz of red wine
  • mulled wine spices – I used cinnamon, cloves and cardomen
  • orange zest
  • 1.8kg or 4 1b granulated sugar (but play with this it always seems too much to me)

Follow these instructions

Put the plums and wine in a large pan

tie the spices and orange zest into some muslin (or a old pair of tights)

Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15minutes until the plum skins are soft

remove the spice and add the sugar

boil rapidly for 10 minutes ( I gave mine a stir to stop it sticking to the pan)

test for a set (stick a dollop on a cold saucer and see if it wrinkles)

remove any scum from the top

pour the jam into warm sterilised jars and then seal

It can be stored for a year but once open put in the refrigerator and eat within 3-4 weeks



Nettle Beer

nettle beer

Beer made from stinging nettles might not sound the most palatable beverage but, try it, and you will be harvesting this handy plant every spring.


You need

  • 100 nettles (young or nettle tips are best)
  • 12 litres of water
  • 1.5 kg sugar
  • 50g cream of tartar
  • 15 g yeast

Boil the nettles with 12 litres of water for 15 minutes (in batches if you don’t have a big enough pot). Strain and add the sugar and cream of tartar. Heat and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Wait until tepid and then add the yeast. Stir well, cover and leave for a few days, otherwise it can have too much fizz. Bottle and cork.

Like all home brewing nettle beer is a bit hit and miss. I have made some excellent supplies with a heady alcohol content and have also made some dud batches which were stinky enough to clear a cinema when opened surreptitiously during a Harry Potter film (the closest thing to a potion I had). Just be careful when you uncork, they can go off with quite a bang!


Rosehip Jelly – Recipe

A perfect recipe to keep coughs and colds at bay as rosehips contain 30 times more vitamin C than an orange. If it wasn’t pouring of rain outside I would be out there picking them this instant. Incidentally, the roots of wild roses are also a cure for the bite of a mad dog!! should you happen to come across one.

photo kanshiketsu

photo kanshiketsu

Rosehip Jelly

500 g (1lb 2 oz) ripe rosehips (stems removed)

2 tbsp lemon juice

1 kg (2lb 4oz) crab or cooking apples

caster sugar

  • wash and drain and chop the rosehips (be careful of the tiny spines inside which can get under the skin and be a pain)
  • put the rosehips into a saucepan with the lemon juice and chopped apples (include the cores, pips and skin)
  • bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes
  • mash everything up
  • pour into a jelly bag or muslin lined sieve (or if you don’t have anything so fancy then try some nylon tights. You need a fine mesh to filter the spines)
  • leave overnight to drip
  • return the liquid to a pan and add 450 g (1lb) sugar for ever 1 pint of liquid
  • stir over a low heat until the liquid dissolves
  • increase the heat and boil rapidly for 5 – 10 minutes
  • test for a set (stick a bit on a cold plate and see if it wrinkles)
  • if it doesn’t set continue boiling and try again.
  • remove the mixture from the heat, skim off any scum and pour into warm sterilised jars.
  • it will keep for up to a year.