To cure the pelts, I have adopted a standard technique of NOT scraping off the fat from the pelt, pinning it to a board with nails, coating liberally with salt and sitting it in mosquito net for a few days undercover. The result is a good stiff skin- perfect for a rug. I did one about a month ago that got wet and attacked by flies- it went a bit rank, so I did learn a valuable lesson- don't leave it out in the rain!
When I returned from 5 days away on my educational break, I checked in with my landlord’s who, in return for looking after their 500lb pig ‘bangers’ when they head north, had kindly watered the patch in my absence. Apparently there was so much rain; they didn’t have to a lot. All I was told is that there was more weed than a Jamaican cannabis factory; my plan of being a lazy gardener obviously wasn’t going to happen.
As I walked up to the patch, it looked so out of control that I could barely see the round, crisp balls of iceberg. Some serious weeding was in order…immediately. Although I try my best not to procrastinate, sometimes procrastination in itself can be a wonderful thing: the freedom of turning your back on the problem in hand, shrugging and saying “Fuck it” is priceless. Tomorrow it is…or the day after.
On the upside, I had an enormous glut of runner beans, plenty for eating and even more for pickling. I picked my first one and bit in to it with a satisfying crunch and marvelled at the incredible sweetness of it, a versatile addition to the garden indeed. In my absence the courgettes had gone a little haywire and turned into marrows the size of Arnie’s forearm.
“What the hell am I going to do with these?” I said out loud, then took the cursory look around to ensure I was alone and hadn’t just been caught chatting to myself…as I have mentioned before, in much the same way as playing air guitar with a stick, it’s fine if you’re on your own.
Weirdly enough the answer came to me quite quickly, in the same way I had hollowed out a pumpkin and filled it with Gruyere and cream in a past post (stuffing big vegetables is great fun), I could put fish, veg and stock in it and bake it in the embers…or meat, fish? No, meat. Maybe fish? Yes…meat.
When I got back from the patch I had quite an epic spread of green stuff, enough to really excite any evangelical vegetarian, but for a corpse-cruncher like me, the picture wasn’t complete. Just before the rain came, I did my “sniping” instead of fishing- after a week of smoked salmon and eel, I was feeling a tad fished out. After peeling the rabbit and curing the pelt, I took all the meat off the bone, kept the liver and threw away the kidneys. Now I’m a big fan of offal but where kidneys are concerned I don’t care what anyone says, they taste of piss.
I made an enormous fire using the finest oak available to humanity and let it burn down to top quality embers. Once the fire was going I got to work on the mutant courgette: The top was sliced off and the base was hollowed out and seasoned well, this might work!
The rabbit was browned off in a pan over the fire and set aside to cool while I put some potatoes (cubed) on to boil. I chopped up some spinach and put it in the base of the hollowed out marrow, followed by some chopped runner beans, w.garlic and hop shoots. The rabbit and all the juices were poured in along with a half a stock cube and some water (at this point a glass of white wine in both me and the marrow would really have made the dish).
Down here tinfoil isn’t the kind of thing that grows on trees, Burdock leaves are the treehouse dweller’s best wrapping tool, It has a vast skill set: from clutching slimy eels to wiping a backside, and even wrapping food to place on the embers of a fire.
40 minutes after firmly placing my packaged supper onto the embers and building a little nest around it, I went to inspect. It was done…perhaps overdone?
As I removed what was left of the wrapping and gingerly removed the lid, my nostrils were hit with a mix of mouth-watering aromas. The contents of the marrow and most of the flesh were ladled onto my waiting plate and eaten without delay…one hell of a supper! I cant help but think that it was really a dish for 2 people, but I ate it all anyway and felt incredibly fat and lethargic afterwards…that’s why hammocks were invented.
Meadowsweet…oh meadowsweet. Now that the elderflower has gone and the cordial I made from it also about to go the same way, I decided to apply the same non-exact science used to make elderflower drinkable to the somewhat similar sweet, fragrant flowers of meadowsweet- now in full swing.
I often have meadowsweet knocking about the treehouse, for both its pleasant aroma and its use as a good herbal tea (see British Bush Tea post). Meadowsweet comes from its old school name “mead sweet” which refers to it’s past as a sweetening agent in mead production. It is also very useful medicinally; it is a remedy for upset stomach, heartburn, headache or used as a mild painkiller. The latter is due to the plants high levels of Salicylic acid- a principle ingredient found in Aspirin. So, if I could turn the flowers into cordial, it would be a lot healthier than a dose of Ribena and replenish my dwindling elderflower stocks.
Makes 2 bottles.
Oddly enough, as the name suggests, found in meadows! Although your best bet is down by rivers and streams, the white “candyfloss” heads will stick out like a sore thumb.
- 200g Meadowsweet flower heads (about half a carrier bag)
- 700g Granulated Sugar
- 50g Citric acid (available at any brew shop- if not add more lemon juice, the cordial wont keep for long though)
- 2.5 litres Water
- Juice of 2 Lemons
Bring the water to the boil in a saucepan and add the flower heads, stir gently and remove from the heat. Add the lemon juice, stir and allow to infuse for an hour.
Strain through muslin, bring the strained liquid to the boil once again, add sugar and stir until dissolved, remove from the heat and add the citric acid. Allow to cool and then bottle up.
Best served with ice on a blistering hot day! To my knowledge this isn’t something you can buy…so do give it a go, I think I prefer it to elderflower; Maybe I could make some booze with it? Watch this space…
Its good to be back at home in the woods after being north of the border, everything seems new again and fresh… like a new bag of newness, fresh from the factory where they make new things.
Anyway, I would love to stay and ramble on, but It is 1am, I must get back to the treehouse and get some shuteye before getting up early to go and teach foraging on the South downs, then its off to Cuckmere haven to try and get a bass supper, some seaweed, samphire and whatever else is up for grabs.