One of the things I love about researching plants is having a damn good rummage through ancient manuscripts and cookery books scouting out long forgotten recipes.
Two days ago I visited the Bodleian library in Oxford. Confined to the outside only, so not really a visit more a pinning for what gems lay hidden on its shelves. I imagined a nightime raid with grappling hooks, zip wires and balacalava.
Then remembered how old I am and my imaginary exploits of breaking into ‘The Bod’ pettered out rather quickly.
I don’t think breaking into such a cultural heritage site would have put the foraging movement in good favour with an already twitchy media and government.
So today in order to satiate my consumption of knowledge I went to virtually rummage recipes online. Coming across delightfully titled subjects as ‘To pickle sparrows’, ‘To pickle broom buds’ etc.
Last year I had created the most divine hawthorn flower syrup imaginable. Even I was astounded that my ‘all fingers and no thumbs’ style of cooking crafted such a fine beverage.
Sadly, it was done on the spur of the moment and I had not been as disciplined as I usually am. So the ingredients and instructions for making it had failed to be recorded.
I knew however, that I had reworked some centuries old recipe. And it was this that I was searching for today.
After much digital page flicking and for some reason I still lick my finger when doing this. Old habits and all that die hard. There it was. The source of my creation.
In these bygone tomes, the publisher would print the S as an F, so it sounds when prounoucing the words, as though one has a lisp (or no teeth).
Here is the original recipe, translated into modern English by myself.
And no, I’m not telling you which manuscript it came from. People steal enough of my work without handing it to these scoundrels on a platter.
For this recipe you will be making a makeshift ‘bain marie’. So will need a wide mouth saucepan and a large jar with a cap. The jar needs to sit inside the saucepan.
Hawthorn Flower Syrup Instructions
Weigh your hawthorn blossom (having removing any twigs, insects and faeries etc.). Weigh out an equal amount of caster sugar.
In a jar first layer some flowers, then cover with a sprinkling of caster sugar, then more flowers, sugar, flowers, sugar etc. until the jar is full. Dribble three dessert spoonfuls of water over the contents and tie some muslin on top.
Place the jar inside your saucepan and pour water around the edge until it is two-thirds up the jar. Bring to a very low simmer allowing the caster sugar to dissolve. Keep on a low simmer for about an hour. Top up the water around the edges if its is going down. You do not want it to go dry!
After an hour take the jar out of the saucepan, screw on the cap and allow to sit over night. In the morning strain out the flowers and pour the flower syrup into sterilised jars, cap and store.
Due to the high sugar content, it should keep for a few months without going off.