Along the Grapevine


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Dandelion Gin Fizz

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There is little time left to collect dandelion flowers this year. My spectacular crop is quickly going to seed, especially those plants which have been left unmowed, and which now exceed the typical maximum height of 45 cm. I was however able to collect a bucket full today from the mowed areas to make the season’s last batch of my new favourite summer drink – dandelion gin fizz.

There is no need to give descriptions of this plant for purposes of identification – if you have them anywhere in your area, you already know them. As for foraging, just make sure that they are picked only in clean areas, free of pesticides and other chemicals, or contaminated run-off. Around parking lots, train tracks, heavily travelled roads and polluted waters are to be avoided.

Roots, leaves and flowers are all edible. In fact, it is a common culinary and medicinal plant in many parts of the world. For more on the benefits and contraindications, check this post. Unfortunately, its uses and benefits are still relatively unrecognized in this part of the world, which makes it a great source of experiment for curious cooks.

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Which brings me back to my bucket full of flowers. Last year, at about this time, I wrote my first post on dandelions, including recipes using flowers for dandelion pakoras and syrup. Since then, I have come across a few recipes for lacto-fermented soda, such as this one and of course I had to try it. It is easy, economical, and full of all those wonderful pro-biotics found in fermented foods and drinks. I was also intrigued to think that this could be a home-made soft drink. I am not a fan of the overly sweet commercial fizzy drinks, with the exception of tonic water for my G&Ts, which despite its grown-up bitter flavour, has as much sugar as the worst of them. So I was thinking along the lines of a good gin and tonic type drink as a post-gardening/weeding refreshment.

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I made this one with whey as a fermenting agent. For the whey, you can strain some natural, plain yogurt through a sieve lined with cheesecloth. You don’t need much, and it keeps in the fridge for at least a week, and can be frozen. My next batch I will make with a dandelion bug, that is, a fermenting agent made with edible root, water and sugar. Most ‘bugs’ are made from ginger, but in fact any edible root works – so why not a dandelion root? To get a clearer idea of what I am referring to, check out this post for a ginger bug where the process is clearly explained.

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Dandelion Gin Fizz


The Soda

Fill a clean mason jar about 3/4 full with dandelion petals – only the yellow part.

Cover with boiling, filtered water and let stand for about 24 hours.

Strain the mixture, and squeeze out all the liquid you can from the petals.

For every cup of juice, ad 1/4 cup whey and 1/4 cup sugar syrup (made from heating until sugar is dissolved 2 parts sugar to 1 part water).

Cover the jar with a clean cloth and allow to stand for about five days at room temperature stirring once a day.

Small white bubbles will form on the top. If it goes mouldy, then throw it out. When you stir it, check the taste. It will have a dandelion flavour, but should be palatable.

The Gin Fizz

1 1/2 cup dandelion soda

1/3-1/2 cup sugar syrup

juice of 1 lemon

3 oz. gin

ice cubes

Mix the first 4 ingredients and pour into glasses over ice cubes.

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Not as bitter as a commercial tonic, this drink has a mild fruit taste, something like a pear nectar. The fizziness is lighter than a traditional G&T, but it is every bit as refreshing and satisfying.

 

Dandelion Gin Fizz on Punk Domestics

 

 


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Sumac Drink

I have been using sumac powder as a spice for a long time, but am only now convinced that I can make the same thing with the sumac which grows all around us – except for the few hundred a year I pull out. It has a tart lemony flavour which is good in any spicy cooking, and can be used in place of lemon or lemongrass.

My experiment with that will have to wait, but meanwhile, here is a recipe for a concoction which can be drunk as a hot tea, a soft or hard cold drink, or an added ingredient to your own drinks. The flowers can be picked now, while bright red, or later after they have turned brown. The only difference is in the colour of the final product.

In some areas, the sumac is known as the lemonade tree, which gives you an idea of what the flower is like, and I hope to find more uses for it with a little trial and possibly error.

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Step 1
Pick some flowers from the sumac trees and rinse them.

Step 2
Scrape the flowers off the cone. I (I am not sure if this step is necessary, but it does make sense. If anyone thinks or knows otherwise, let me know).

Step 3
Mix 2 cups flowers, 2 cups water and 1 cup sugar in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 15 minutes.

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Step 4
Strain through wet cheesecloth in a sieve (or some other material), squeezing out all the liquid. Discard the flowers.

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I used about 1 part tea to 4 parts soda water for a cold drink, but this is a versatile drink, so do as you like. It was also good with a little vodka thrown in.

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Dandelion Syrup

I have often hoped to come across a recipe for floral drinks such as the ones found in Swedish shops (or Sweden). I just discovered dandelions do the trick very nicely. I made a syrup first, then diluted it – every bit as good as elderflower etc.  I am sure it can be used equally well for cocktails or toddies, but for now am just using it for a tall summer non-alcoholic drink.

Syrup

2 cups dandelion petals, packed tightly

2 cups of sugar

2 cups water

juice of 1 lemon

Wash the flowers and remove the petals. Cover them with water, bring to a boil for no more than a minute, then remove from heat and leave them to steep overnight.

The next morning, strain the liquid and discard the petals. Add the lemon juice and the sugar, bring to a boil and then simmer for about an hour and a half.

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Dandelion Drink

Mix one part syrup to four parts water.