May 30, 2012
eating and drinking a large bouquet of small flowers...
Or perhaps two years ago, when I got a bunch of fresh chamomile and played around with it, making fresh chamomile tea and some sweets. I had great fun doing it, and I wanted to do it again last year so tried to get my hand on some fresh chamomile... unsuccessfully. This being deep in the countryside where you'd find a lot of herbs and stuff, I didn't expect it to be so difficult to find it, but clearly I was wrong. Or perhaps I was a little too late in the season to find the fresh flower (it was early June).
In any way, my attempt to hunt down fresh chamomile ended in vein, and I was left feeling disappointed - even more so when my mom told me someone she knows happened to have chamomile bush at the corner of their vegetable patch. This, coming after we'd run around the places to get some, was a bit of unfortunate news in a way. The good news was, we now knew exactly who to turn to next time the flowers come to bloom.
And so it happened early last week: "they are in bloom", the said friend of my mom's notified us, so we headed their way, very excited (mostly me).
I mean, a huge bunch.
Back home, I put most of them in the water.
But I did make myself a cup of chamomile tea first thing, and got instantly reminded of why I loved fresh chamomile so much... clean and sweet, light and soothing.
I mentioned before, I do love chamomile tea made with milk, too, with or without a bit of honey added to it.
And well, those things pictured alongside the tea?
Joy the Baker.
For one thing, I wanted to bake with chamomile flowers. Also, I was after something pretty and portable, as I wanted to make it a little thank-you gift for the friend of my mother's who generously shared their gorgeous chamomile. And these cakes seemed just the thing: simple to make, and pretty to look at.
As far as the flavor of chamomile goes, I might have liked it a little more pronounced. Then again, as is often the case with using herbs in baking in general, too much of it can turn your cake into something that makes you feel as if you had a cake of soap in your mouth, so perhaps it was good for the chamomile flavor to be very subtle - understated, even.
Then, as I pondered what to do next with my chamomile, I got these:
Probably not as large or as sweet as those gorgeous lots coming from the country's more famous strawberry-growing regions, they were still flavorfully sweet and pleasantly tart, like a sort that we used to eat as a kid back in the day when our fruits weren't as sweet as what we have today.
And because I happened to have a gorgeous bunch of fresh chamomile flowers and a heap of shiny gem of strawberries, I decided to make something by using the two together, and here are what I had:
To prepare the cordial, I simply took a bunch of strawberries that were overripe, all hulled and some chopped, then cooked them with some water, a bit of honey, and a handful of fresh chamomile flowers, until the berries were soft and gave away their flavor and juice to the cooking liquid. I left them overnight to let the flavor develop a bit, and strained before pouring it into a bottle.
As for the panna cotta, I started by combining some milk and cream (two parts milk and one part cream here, for lighter-tasting pudding) and a handful of chamomile flowers, and bringing the mixture to a near boil before removing from heat and letting it cool overnight. Next day, I strained the mixture, gently warmed it again and dissolved a bit of honey in it, then added unflavored gelatin. You can chill it in glasses or jelly molds, but here I used small flower-shaped cupcake molds.
Now, while the ripest of my strawberries (both small and large) made the cordial, the least ripe and the firmest of all small berries were thrown into a jar with some booze for homemade strawberry liqueur, and everything in between went into a pot for a batch of strawberry jam.
You might have already read this in one or more of my past entries here, but I don't care for jams in general (with an exception of marmalade), and strawberry jam happens to be my least favorite of all. Then again, I do think you'd need a spoonful of ruby-red strawberry jam for your occasional English scones with clotted cream, so it shouldn't hurt to make a small batch of it once a year or so, I figured.
try to turn every single fruit of the season at hand into a homemade liqueur, right? Here I more or less followed a recipe like this (in Japanese) by combining about 300 g / 10-11 oz. of strawberries (hulled and cleaned), 50 g / 2 oz. of sugar, 450 ml / 16 fl.oz. of vodka, and a few slices of lemon. I'm going to leave it to sit for a couple of months before straining and bottling.
And while I was in a preserving-fresh-fruit-of-the-season mode, I worked on my large bouquet of chamomile, too.
I first thought about trying chamomile liqueur, then came across this recipe and changed my mind. The only difference is that you use primarily wine rather than spirit like you'd usually do for homemade liqueurs, although this recipe does use a bit of rum as an optional addition. I used strips of lemon peel instead of grated zest of orange called for in the recipe, but I think it'll be fine.
here, using mild local acacia honey. I was really tempted to add a vanilla bean into the mix, as the flavors of chamomile and vanilla seem to pair really well - but resisted, just to have a pure chamomile-honey infusion this time.
Everything but the jam will need to sit for some weeks or months, but the wait is part of the pleasure involved in preserving season's bounties, I think.
...and oh, there were still more flowers left...
posted by chika at: 5/30/2012 07:52:00 AM