Cocktails of the Hedgerow

Times are hard – these days, if you want luxury you’ll have to forage for it. Fed by Birds is here to help, so we bring you cocktail recipes derived from the land. Let Ray Mears drink sap; we expect something a little more exciting from the wilderness.
Vodka and Nettle Cordial
As served by Lady Strange.
100g freshly picked nettle tips
100g freshly picked young blackcurrant leaves
1 kg granulated sugar
40g citric acid
500ml boiling water
Add the sugar, citric acid and water to a large saucepan. Heat to 60 degrees C. Add the leaves and remove immediately from heat. Cover and leave for a week, stirring daily. Strain and bottle. Keep in refrigerator.
Add vodka to taste.
Hazelnut Martini
1/2lb hazelnuts, finely chopped
1 1/2 cup vodka
1/3 cup sugar
3 tbsp. water
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Hazelnut liqueur preparation:
In a glass bottle or jar, steep the chopped hazelnuts in the vodka for about 2 weeks in a cool, dark place, gently shaking the bottle every day. Gently pour the contents through a strainer or sieve, pressing hard on the nuts to release all the flavor.
Follow this by 2 strainings through slightly dampened cheesecloth or large coffee filter; loosely cover the contents with plastic wrap, since the process may take several hours.
In a very small saucepan, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil over moderate-high heat. Simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature.
Stir in the vanilla. Funnel into glass bottle. Cover tightly; shake to blend. Let mature at room temperature, or slightly cooler, for at leat 3 weeks.
For martini, combine 1/2oz hazelnut liqueur with 1oz vodka with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and serve.
Haw liqueur
1lb haws washed and lightly crushed
6oz caster sugar
1 1/4 pint brandy
Put the berries, sugar and the brandy into clean lidded jar. Stir well. Put on the lid.
Store in a cool place for 3 months, shaking the jar daily for the first 7 days. Strain the brandy through a brewing sieve into a jug. Do not squeeze the sieve. Pour the liqueur into a clean bottle and cork.
Elderflower Champagne
5-6 Elderfower heads
2 Lemons
8 pints boiled Water
1 1/2lb sugar
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
Put the elderflower heads and sliced lemons in a fermentation bucket and pour on the water. Leave to soak for 24 – 36 hours. Strain through a cloth or fine sieve and add the sugar and the vinegar. Stir well until the sugar is completely dissolved. It doesn’t keep much longer than 3 months.
Fern Punch
Capillaire is a syrup popular in old English drinks:
Infuse 2oz maidenhair fern in 11/2 boiling water, and 2lb of loaf sugar, which pour while boiling hot on 2oz more of the fern. In 10 hours strain clear.
For the punch:
Take 1 quart of mild ale.
1 glass of white wine.
1 glass of brandy.
1 glass of Capillaire.
1 lemon.
Mix the ale, wine, brandy and Capillaire together with the juice of the lemon and a portion of the peel pared very thin. Grate nutmeg on the top, and add a bit of toasted bread.

Owl Men

Walking through the British Museum I came across this strangely modern-looking owl sculpture, actually an Aztec vessel for sacrificial offerings. Interesting to see that if you were born on 1-Rain in the Aztec calendar you were liable to turn into a deadly tlacatecolotl, or human owl. (I can’t work out what that is in the Gregorian calendar but here is a fascinating article about the Aztec calendar, which begins on 1-Crocodile and goes through Ocelot and Death’s Head, ending with 13-Flower.)
Owl men were also popular in Seventies Cornwall, it seems.

Tylor’s Bewitched Onion

Among the curious treasures of the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford is this preserved onion, supposedly used for sympathetic magic – which is not as kindly as it sounds. Anthropologist Edward Burnett Tylor produced it as evidence of wizardry done by the landlord of the Barley Mow pub in Rockwell Green, Somerset, in 1891. This essay on the onion has the full story, along with other tales attached to a witch’s ladder made of cock feathers; an infant’s caul used as a sailor’s charm, and a slug impaled on a thorn said to cure warts. All part of “England: The Other Within”, an analysis of the collections to “gain a picture of Englishness”. Pub sorcery, magic onions and lucky amniotic sacks – yes, that seems to cover it.

Innovative Knitting

Anyone with any sense likes to knit, and one of its greatest pleasures is discovering new and strange ways of doing things. Designers such as Sandra Backlund (above) are currently pushing knitwear into all kinds of unexpected directions, but even among the V & A’s store of wartime knitting patterns you can find small innovations, like the ears-free balaclava – ideal for mobile phone addicts in cold climates:
Or to be really modern you can always extend who you knit for – how about trees:
(Janet Morton, via)
Or giants:
(Christien Meindertsma)

Shop Windows

There’s something very appealing about a window display that someone once worked hard on, now preserved in an old photograph, often along with the hungry faces pressed against the window. These pictures are from all over the place, I’m afraid, but primarily the English Heritage Viewfinder site and the Library of Congress. Although the first – and best – was created by my grandfather for a grocer’s shop in Gloucestershire: I’ve already written about it at my other place.

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