Blossom and Blackcurrant Leaves
Words and photography by Jessica Elliott Dennison.
Preserving each season’s flavours through jam, pickle and ice-cream making is one of my favourite kitchen tasks. Around May-time, we’re spoilt for cherry blossom in this part of town and the meadows turning to full pink bloom becomes a pretty special sight.
This year, my team and I picked a load of cherry blossom petals and packed them into large jars with a very simple sugar-water syrup. They sat there on the cafe shelves, quietly infusing an incredible almond, almost coconut flavour.
Across the summer, we spooned the nutty, floral syrup and preserved petals over yoghurt with pearl barley at breakfast, then later in the day over berry sorbet at supperclubs. I’m glad we made the small effort to hold on to them.
Now, as the summer wraps up and we head into full autumn-mode, it’s the smell and flavour of the final blackcurrant leaves that I’m looking to preserve.
Firstly with a simple syrup, very similar to the sugar-water process we did with the cherry blossom. This fragrant, zesty, almost violet-y infused syrup will be saved for sodas and cocktails much later in the year.
A recipe for Blackcurrantleaf cordial and ice-cream
Secondly, I’ve been throwing washed blackcurrant leaves into an easy custard base then allowing it to infuse for a few days before turning it into ice-cream for our lunchtime menu. The results have been quite magical and I’ve loved witnessing the surprise on customers’ faces when they experience the taste and smell of the leaves in what they thought was just a plain ice-cream.
We get our leaves from the guys at Phantassie over in East Lothian, but if you’ve got a blackcurrant bush in your garden, or can get your hands on some of the season’s remaining leaves, I’d recommend making this simple cordial or ice-cream. Don’t worry if you don’t have an ice-cream maker, I’ve given guidance below to use cream only and not milk, so you shouldn’t end up with ice crystals that require churning or an ice cream maker.
BLACKCURRANT LEAF CORDIAL
As with all of our cordial recipes, I’ve kept the quantities here pretty loose, as it depends how many leaves you can get hold of, and how many jars you’ve got spare.
I tend to sterilise a couple of large kilner jars (ours are 5-litre capacity) then bring an equal quantity of water and caster sugar to the boil in a large pan until the sugar has visibly dissolved.
Meanwhile, I wash the leaves and pick away any woody branches, then pack into the jars so that its 3/4 full of leaves. I carefully pour over the hot sugar syrup (please take care if you’re doing this at home) then leave to infuse for at least 5 days for anything up to a few months.
BLACKCURRANT LEAF ICE-CREAM
500ml double cream (our favourite is from Mossgiel Farm in Ayrshire)
70g caster sugar
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
3 egg yolks
Large handful blackcurrant leaves, washed
I use a more traditional ice-cream method in the cafe, but have simplified things for you below so that you an easily make at home.
First, place the cream, sugar and salt in a large pan on medium heat. Allow to simmer gently, stirring regularly until the sugar has visibly dissolved. Remove from the heat.
Next, place the yolks in a large bowl, whisk in some of the hot cream, whisking regularly so that it combines without scrambling. Return to the pan of cream then whisk until combined.
Throw in the blackcurrant leaves then allow to cool. Pop in the fridge for 3 days to infuse. Strain then transfer to a tub and freeze.
Serve with some cold-pressed rapeseed oil and an extra pinch of sea salt flakes.