1. Dandelion “Coffee”
Dig roots in autumn when they are swollen with food for the winter. Cut off the leaves, wash and scrub roots until quite clean. Cut into 1cm lengths and leave to air dry on a cloth, turning daily. When dry roast at 160 degrees and then grind the roots in a coffee grinder or blender. Store in an air tight jar.
To serve, allow one desert spoonful per cup and infuse for 3 minutes. Make in a caftiere or in a jug, straining into a cup to serve. The drink is slightly bitter like chicory “coffee” so may need more sweetening, ideally use honey.
2. Blackberry tea
Pick young light green leaves and dry on a low heat in the oven until they crumble when crushed. Store in an air tight container. Serve in a teapot allowing two teaspoonfuls per cup. Steep for 5-10 minutes and serve in a glass like lemon tea.
3. Blackberry cordial
600 g blackberries
2 tsp cinnamon bark
2 tsp cloves
Mash the fruit and strain through a sieve or muslin bag, squeezing to extract maximum juice. Measure liquid and transfer to a pan allowing 100g sugar to every 300ml juice, add cloves and cinnamon, boil for 20 minutes stirring regularly. Strain to remove spices, pour cordial into sterilised bottles and store in the fridge.
To serve dilute to taste
4. Elderflower champagne
4 large flower heads in full bloom
4.5 litres of water
650 g sugar
2 tbsp white vinegar
Dissolve sugar in a small amount of warmed water and allow to cool. Squeeze the juice of the lemon into a large jug or bowl with the flower heads, cut the rind into four and add this, with the vinegar and the rest of the water. Leave to steep for four days, strain and seal in screw topped sterilised bottles. Normally it is ready to drink in 6-10 days. Test after 6 days in case it goes too fizzy and bottles may blow. Some times it is slow to start and may need another week; if it does not fizz up, discard.
5. Elderflower cordial
30 elderflower heads
1.5 litres water
1.7 kg sugar
50 g citric acid
Place sugar and water in a large pan and bring to the boil, stirring until sugar dissolves, then allow to cool. Thinly slice lemons and place in a large jug or bowl with the flower heads and the citric acid then add the cool sugar syrup. Cover and leave overnight before straining off into a large jug. It may be necessary to strain it through a jelly bag or muslin to remove fine bits. Store cordial in sterile sealed bottles in the fridge.
To serve dilute to taste with chilled or fizzy water and ice if preferred.
6. Elderberry Cordial
Strip the fruit from the stems as soon as possible after picking before the stems go too brittle and fall apart making cleaning the fruit very tedious. Ideally use a fork to gently strip the berries, too much force will again fracture the brittle stems. Wash and drain the fruit, place it in a pan and barely cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through muslin or a jelly bag and measure the juice. Allow 450g sugar and 10 cloves per 6dl of juice. Reheat the juice, stirring gently until all the sugar has dissolved, and then boil gently for 10 minutes. Strain off cloves and seal syrup in sterile bottles.
Serve diluted 2tbsp to a glass of hot or cold water, a few drops of lemon juice may be added and possibly a little whiskey!
NB. This has been used since Tudor times to relieve congestion and coughs. The syrup is an aperient, stopping colds and bringing on a sweat.
7. Nettle tea
20g dried nettle leaves / cupful of fresh leaves
500ml boiling water
Boil leaves in water for 3 minutes and strain serving with honey or sugar to taste.
NB. Teas can also be made with Elderflower flower heads, Rose petals, dried Lime flowers, Fennel seeds and leaves, young Dandelion leaves, Chamomile flowers and leaves, young Pine needles, Gorse flowers, Yarrow leaves fresh or dried and dried Heather flowers.
8. Acorn “coffee”
Fresh ripe acorns
Boil acorns for 15 minutes to soften shells, remove shells and split acorns. Change water and boil again, repeating until water is clear, showing that all the bitter tannin has been removed. Dry for several days, grind in a coffee grinder or blender. Roast gently in the oven or under the grill until dark brown but not burnt.
(The roasted acorns may be re-ground to achieve a finer powder)
To serve infuse for 2 minutes and serve with milk and sugar.
NB The drink tastes more like ovaltine than coffee, beware the sludge at the bottom of your cup!