More a Winter-warming Whisky…
The last couple of weeks have seen snow on the tops, frostbitten garden produce and icy staff cars in the mornings! Winter has definitely arrived here in Oldstead. At the moment we have the garden and kitchen boys in development mode, making plans to utilise our winter produce and preserve what we have left from the autumn harvest. Roots are being dug up and brassica plants are being felled everywhere!
I spoke a little in my last blog about the paramount importance of taking what the seasons give at the crucial moment and finding ways to capture that flavour for later times. For us, summer is all about elderflower. It’s everywhere around the restaurant and we go to work producing litres and litres of cordials and vinegars, pickling blossoms, making emulsions, curing seafood and whatever else we can manage. After the blossoms die back, we are left with the little green seed heads, so we harvest again and turn them into brined capers to use throughout the winter. By the time September arrives, we’ve usually forgotten about the elder trees because they’ve already provided us with so much. However, this year (and with no firm plan) we decided to harvest a third time, and go for the berries.
With a few carrier bags worth (and still no plan) we played around with a few fruit-infused vinegars and syrups but none of them really managed to produce the unique sweet and sharp flavour that I love in elderberries. With the help of the internet we came up with what I suppose could be described as a cordial? It had a real fresh fruit flavour without being too cloying; so we processed all the berries. At this point, I can confirm there was still no plan!
The freezer thankfully gave me a bit of thinking time. Collecting garnish for gin and tonics a couple of weeks ago I noticed how the frosts had demolished all of our plants apart from the odd hardy herb, and then I remembered the bay that Anne planted at the front of the restaurant (sorry Anne, I haven’t admitted this to you yet!) and decided to steep some leaves in sugar syrup, with the idea being as well-constructed and ridiculous as missing the taste of my Mum’s bread sauce! Our now frozen elderberry cordial had some cloves cooked into it and so, the inception of the bread sauce cocktail had begun… whether rightly or wrongly.
The finished product comprises of Rowan’s Creek bourbon, the bay and elderberry cordials and the classic sour mix of egg whites, lemon, sugar and Angostura Bitters. We shake it hard to get a frothy head, serve it in a whisky glass over ice and it totally tastes like Christmas. Unfortunately we only did a small batch of the elderberry, but next year will be a different story!