Elderberry Liqueur

I found myself in the woods again the other day…

… my basket and secateurs in hand, stinging nettle burns on my arms, shiny black berries overhead – most too high to reach!

So this year there will be only one bottle of elderberry liqueur…but that is all we need after having already made apple, lemon verbena, herb, and elderflower liqueurs this year.

Elderberries are full of vitamin C, but must be cooked as they are slightly poisonous if eaten raw. They have a lovely flavour, but can be rather sour and seedy. This liqueur, however, is delicious. I’m not sure if any of the vitamins survive being drowned in all that sugar and alcohol, but we can pretend!

Here’s the recipe: double the quatities if you can get a kilo of berries!

Elderberry Liqueur

  • 500g (1 lb) elderberries (weighed after removing stalks)
  • 500ml (2 cups) vodka
  • 175g (3/4 cup) white sugar
  • 2 tbsps vanilla sugar

Remove the berries from the heads using a fork… it doesn’t matter if some of the stalks are still attached. Wash the berries and put in a large saucepan. Add a very little water, just enough to cover the base of the pan, and then add the sugar and vanilla sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Put in a sterilized jar and cover with the alcohol. Seal and let stand in a warm place for 4 weeks.

Then sieve, and filter through a fine muslin cloth. It should really stand another 2 months to develop its flavour, but already tastes pretty good!

Keeps for about another 6 months after maturing, but really you should drink it up while the weather’s cold! It’s good for you!  😉

Sumptuous September

Some of the herbs from my garden, along with the apples my neighbour gave me,  are now being preserved for cooler days; liqueurs for sipping by the fire on a winter evening, and some sage honey, said to be good for coughs and sore throats…

The liqueurs are tried and tested recipes. The honey is a first for me, but since my pulmonaria honey was such a success I decided to try this out.

Sage Honey

Simply wash and dry about 12 sage leaves. Chop and put in a clean jar. Pour over 500g (1 lb) of clear, not too strong, honey. (I used Acacia honey). Seal and store for a week. Then do a taste test. If it gets too strong, strain out the leaves and reseal. 😀

Apple liqueur

Peel and thinly slice apples straight into a clean jar filled with schnapps (40% alcohol). (Note: German schnapps contains no added sugar, so if in doubt use brandy or even vodka). I used 700ml apple schnapps and about 300g apples. Add one stick of cinnamon, seal the jar and leave on the windowsill, but not in direct sunlight, for four weeks. Strain out the apples, and add 250g sugar. Leave another 2 weeks. Strain again if you want a really clear liqueur. This keeps very well and is quite sweet and fruity.

Herb Liqueur

  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 3 sprigs basil
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig mint
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 750ml Southern Comfort
  • 225g crystalized sugar
  • Peel of half a lemon

Wash and dry all the herbs and put them in a sterilized jar with the sugar and lemon peel. Cover with the alcohol and leave for 2 weeks in a warm, but not sunny place. Shake occasionally. After the two weeks are up, strain and sieve. It is ready to drink, but it will keep for ages. We still have a drop left from last year!

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Coming up tomorrow: my recipe for elderberry liqueur!

September Sunshine

Schools in Bavaria have started back this week, the swallows have flown, the lemon verbena has been harvested and geranium cuttings taken… and the cobwebs have arrived!

Cobwebs are everywhere at this time of year. “Altweibersommer” is the German equivalent of an Indian summer, and the name comes from the cobwebs. “Weiber” is old German for weaving webs. Look at this beauty!

Our weather really has been wonderful this past week – perfect for being outdoors in the garden,

… listening to the bees humming contentedly,

and enjoying the colours of late summer…

and early autumn…

Are you having an Indian summer?

Tomato and Cheese Tart

Many food blogs and recipe books – including Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, my current favourite – use ready-made pastry… Personally, I love making my own pastry; it’s quick and has no strange additives in it. But I thought maybe I should try some of the store-bought stuff, just for the sake of satisfying my curiosity.

Verdict: not bad at all! 😀

Tomato and Cheese Tart

Heat oven to 190°C. Slice 4 medium tomatoes thinly. Crush 2 cloves of garlic and mix with a little olive oil. Slice some brie, mozzarella, or whatever other cheese you have on hand. Roll out your pack of puff pastry and place on a sheet of greaseproof paper on a baking sheet. Fold in a centimetre (1/2 inch?) at each edge, so there’s a “rim”. Place the tomatoes (artistically!) on the tart. Dribble with the garlic oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for about 10-15 minutes, until the edges look light brown. Place the cheese slices on top and bake for another 5-10 minutes. Don’t let the pastry get too brown. Sprinkle some fresh torn basil leaves over the top and allow to cool a little before serving.

Delicious!

Do you use ready-made pastry?

Giant Rhubarb!

Those huge leaves by the stream need further investigation…

Fabulous if you have the space…

A little nearer now…

I’d love to kid you into thinking it’s rhubarb, but you are all far too clever! (It isn’t even related!)

As I get right up close, I can see sharp prickles, fluffy pink stem bases, and… could those green shoots be the flowers?

Gunnera manicata

(Giant Rhubarb/Mammutblatt)

An amazing herbaceous plant that comes from the southern hemisphere. These have been in this particular garden I visited for many years and have to be kept in check, along with the Bamboo and the Japanese Knotweed! (Japanische Staudenknöterich – Fallopia japonica)

Japanese Knotweed

Are there invasive species threatening your garden or local vicinity?

September Candle

Cimicifuga ramosa ‘Atropurpurea’

Otherwise known as Septemberkerze (September Candle) in Germany

This one actually started flowering a few days before September this year. It smells wonderful! A bit like candyfloss!

There are many different Cimicifuga. Some with dark purplish-brown leaves (like this one), some green, some flower much earlier, some later, some grow to just a metre or so, some to almost 2 metres. Most smell divine, but some have only a faint fragrance, and I have smelt one at a plant fair that was quite unpleasant!

This one is about 1.5 metres high, and does not spread at all. It is at home in the coolest part of the garden… I’m still surprised every time I see the chocolatey buds forming, as it would really like a shadier position, but it was one of the few plants which came with me from my last garden and it got the best I could offer! The pinkish flowers contrast beautifully with the purple buds and leaves… but sadly the leaves tend to scorch easily. (Hence no photo!)

The tiny flowers remind me of Thalictrum...

Cheesy Dill Scones

Light and fluffy, cheesy, herby, buttermilk scones… a great alternative to bread as an accompaniment to summer dishes. I used dill, but you could use basil, rosemary, or parsley. Or a mixture of several herbs.

Cheesy Dill Buttermilk Scones


  • 225g (8 oz) self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 45g (3 tbsps) butter
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup)buttermilk
  • 40g (1/2 cup) parmesan/cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4-5 tbsps chopped dill (or other herbs)
  • salt and black pepper

Sieve flour and baking soda into a bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into the flour with fingertips until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Season, then stir in the cheese. Add buttermilk little by little and bring the dough together to form a ball. If your dough is very wet, you may not need all the buttermilk. Do not knead it! On a floured surface roll out to about 2-3cm thick and cut out shapes with a round pastry cutter. This recipe makes about 8-10 scones, depending on your cutter. Place on greaseproof paper on a baking tray and bake at 180°C for about 10 minutes.

Savour the last days of summer everyone!

😀

Link for conversion tables:

http://www.traditionaloven.com/tutorials/conversion.html