No matter where you are - geographically or seasonally - there is always something interesting to forage. Sometimes it’s growing in your garden, sometimes it is truly feral. As the year shifts and the asters and goldenrod signal the end of summer, I can hardly wait to collect the bounty of this season. Where I live, in New York City, my forages at this time of year include elderberry, native American beach plums (Prunus maritima), aronia (Aronia melanocarpa), and rosehips.
One of the best ways to catch the character of wild flavors (to capture the season, in fact), is to preserve them by infusing or fermenting. Cooking with them or sipping them months later, especially in the long nights of winter, is like traveling back through the year to a warm day when handfuls of fresh fruit tumbled into your basket as you worked.
Here are the wild-inspired ingredients for a cocktail where late summer flavors meet. I called it the Wolf & Badger! This recipe is adapted from my book Forage, Harvest, Feast - A Wild-Inspired Cuisine.
- Beach Plum Gin:
Sloes and domestic plums can be substituted for beach plum.
Combine 2 cups ripe beach plums and 3 cups gin in a jar and infuse for up to a year. Strain, and bottle (you can use the leftover fruit for jam or chutney).
- Aronia Juice:
This North American native pome, bursting with antioxidants, is popular in Europe where it is widely cultivated. You can also buy the frozen fruit in Ukrainian and Russian supermarkets.
4 cups of ripe aronia yield about ¾ cup/175ml of juice.
(For the cocktail you need about ½ cup of fruit.)
Work the fresh fruit through a foodmill using the finest mesh. The juice will stay fresh for up to three days in the fridge (or freeze in ice cube trays).
- Elderberry Syrup:
Raw elderberries are considered toxic so they should always be fermented or cooked. I am not put off by using sugar (clearly), but this intense syrup is a concentrate, meant to be used in Aristotle’s holy moderation. A tablespoon at most.
6 cups ripe elderberries, picked off the stems
1½ pounds (680 g) sugar
Place the fruit in a jar and cover with the sugar. Close the lid and shake the jar until the fruit and sugar are well mixed. Leave (with the lid on loosely) until the juices have been drawn out – about 20 days. Strain, bottle, and refrigerate.
- Rosehip Syrup:
Beach roses (Rosa rugosa) have the fattest hips, but any rosehip will do.
1 cup ripe rosehips, cut in half
½ cup sugar
2 strips orange zest
Combine in a jar and shake well. Cover loosely. Shake daily until the sugar has drawn out the juice – about 10 - 14 days. Strain, bottle, and refrigerate.
And so on to the actual cocktail:
The Wolf & Badger
The astringent sweetness of aronia balances the intensity of the syrups.
3 fl oz Beach Plum Gin
1 fl oz aronia juice
½ fl oz Elderberry syrup
¼ fl oz Rosehip Syrup
3 lemon verbena leaves
Combine all the ingredients in a shaker with plenty of ice and shake. Strain, and pour.