So it’s way too warm for crumble but there’s still plenty of rhubarb to use up! If you’ve got a load, either filling your freezer or out on your plot, this is an easy and delicious cordial, sweetly scented with rose petals, that works well with lemonade or sparkling water, drizzled onto Eton Mess-type desserts, or added to sparkling wine for a cocktail. It’s adapted from Pam Corbin’s classic ‘Rhubeena’ – recipe as follows:
granulated sugar (700g to every litre of juice strained from the fruit pulp)
25g dried rose buds or petals (mine were from Neal’s Yard)
Chop the rhubarb and put in a large pan with the water. Heat slowly to soften the rhubarb, bringing gently to a boil. Squash the rhubarb with a wooden spoon or potato masher as it softens, to help release the juice. Simmer until the fruit is fully softened, then remove from the heat. Scald a jelly bag or muslin cloth and suspend – I line a colander with mine, then sit the colander over a pan. Pour the rhubarb pulp into it and leave it to drip overnight.
Next morning, tighten the muslin around the rhubarb pulp and give it a final squeeze to get the last of the juice out. Tie 25g of dried rosebuds (mine were from Neal’s Yard) into a piece of muslin to create a spice bag.
Measure the juice and pour into a pan (in my case, back into the same one). For every litre of juice add 700g of sugar. I wish I’d made a note of exactly how much juice I’d got, but I didn’t. Sorry. (Note to self: make notes to self.) Heat the juice gently until the sugar dissolves. Dangle the spice bag into the pan to infuse the cordial with as much, or as little of the rose flavour and fragrance as you’d like. Keep the heat gentle, you don’t need to bring it to the boil.
Once you have it tasting exactly as you want it, remove the spice bag, remove the pan from the heat, and pour the cordial immediately into warm, sterilised bottles, leaving around a 1cm gap at the top. Seal with a screw top or cork. Should keep for a couple of months or so if you’ve sterilised the bottle properly and filled it while hot. This recipe made enough for me to fill 5 x 250ml bottles.
Plot G35a, that is. Our scruffy but well-loved little half-plot behind the football ground in Altrincham. We’re losing it not because we’ve been kicked off for non-cultivation (nope, never even had ‘a letter’ despite our slovenly weeding habits). We’re moving – or relocating more like. Part of a growing stream of people pulled southwards as the gulf between London and the rest of the UK grows ever wider. We didn’t want to agree to it, but we’ve had to. And aside from everything (and everybody) else we’re having to say goodbye to, there’s the allotment.
We took the plot on in 2009, when our youngest was a couple of months old. We’d been on the waiting list for over a year, and had pretty much parked the idea in the haze of pregnancy/ new baby, but having waited so long felt we had to accept when our names came to the top of the list. Initially we shared with another family, also with young children. Our shed – our beautiful shed! – started life as a beach hut on Hollyoaks and dominated our little landscape in all its aged yellow and duck-egg blue painted glory. We put in six beds, using old scaffold boards as edges, and set to with the planting.
Eventually our baby boy outgrew his baby carrier and we moved him into an old travel cot for our allotment trips – so he’d sit in there eating raisins and shouting while we did our best to crack on with the digging. As time passed he joined his sister as a junior gardener – his method of runner bean planting will be one we won’t forget.
We’ll be sad to leave it all of course. Our lovely fruit – the rhubarb, the gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries – and our two baby apple trees. Also the prolific nasturtiums, the marigolds, the stuff that springs up with no effort whatsoever. The mare’s tail and couch grass we won’t miss – but no doubt there’ll be some of that where we’re going to remind us of home.
Most of all we will miss the fantastic people we met and came to know – people with neighbouring plots, all of whom shared their knowledge – and their produce – so generously.
Towards our last couple of weeks a twist of fate brightened the allotment goodbye – plot G35A was to be taken on by some very good friends, a family who’d been waiting for upwards of a year for a plot to come free. Our timing was perfect as their names reached the top of the list. So now we can enjoy regular updates by Facebook as to what is being harvested from G35A – truly allotment gardening by proxy!
Posted by Vicky