Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Cat Pee Champagne Polly?

With summer having finally arrived, (that's a laugh considering that Mid-Summer's Night is in less than two weeks time!) the doors and windows are open nearly all the time. Butter stored in the cupboard is soft and spreadable and bread has to be stored in the refrigerator to stop it from going mouldy overnight! Best of all my Nutella jar doesn't have to be nuked in the microwave oven prior to use...

As I sit at the computer I can work without the addition of the desk light and admire the somewhat unusual sight of blue skies and sunshine. The scotch laburnum has gone over now, its yellow petals no longer reflecting the light into my room, but thankfully the elderflower has replaced it. Unlike the laburnum, all parts of which are deadly poisonous to humans, the elderflower is a remarkably useful culinary addition.

One favourite is a low alcohol champagne made from its frothy white blossoms. Essentially this is a mixture of cooled boiled water, several large fresh heads of elderflower, sugar, lemons and possibly some citric acid. Each recipe depends upon varying quantities of the above ingredients and the abundance of wild yeasts which are attracted to the musky white umbrellas.

Having allowed the mixture to mature for a few days, it is then strained and placed in sterilised bottles. It's important that the bottles chosen for this beverage are of either strengthened glass, ie champagne bottles or the thin walled flexible plastic ones that fizzy drinks are sold in as a considerable quantity of carbon dioxide is released as the mixture works itself out. Ordinary glass wine bottles will not survive this part of the process intact!

In as little as three weeks Summer can be celebrated in true country style with a unique and refreshing mildly alcoholic champagne, which is best served lightly chilled. Unfortunately, there are those with sensitive noses who have isolated a distinct aroma of tom-cat pee and upon loudly remarking this fact have persuaded most that this is not the delight that it is! (my ex-mother-in-law being one such person!)

One famous exponent of this summer delight is Britain's own Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall of River Cottage fame. While his timing and ingredients may differ from those quoted above, I'm sure you will agree that the sentiment remains the same...

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