Every year the Spring Hill Peony Farm in country Victoria host a picnic and open paddock day.
Punters from all over descend on this beautiful property, less than two hours drive north west of Melbourne, paying a small admission into the paddock to pick a giant bunch of peonies. A mix of Melbourne hipsters and country hipsters, Asian tourists, families and Maggie Beer-esque ladies swinging baskets on their arms, tramp along a picturesque trail under ancient gums, to a field of peony roses blooming in white and every shade of pink.
Heading back from the paddock laden down with peony roses, the rest of the day can be spent lounging on the grass under the gums, listening to music, sipping wine and enjoying a picnic. To add to the overall beauty of the scene, is ‘The Little Church’, a quaint old white weatherboard church used for weddings, creating a backdrop filled with rustic charm and character.
Stunning peonies are not only an extremely sought after, super popular flower (brides love them!), they are only around for a short time each year (late spring to early summer) which makes them extra, extra special. If you are ever planning a visit to Melbourne in November, we highly recommend hiring a car and timing a trip around the Spring Hill Peony Farm Annual Picnic and Open Paddock Day.
Flipping through the December issue of Country Style magazine, I came across a fabulous recipe for a refreshing, non-alcoholic (okay, it can be converted into alcoholic) summer drink based on fruit and rose petals. If you are looking for a fun activity to do over the weekend or for the festive season, take a look at this recipe below. Roses are in full bloom right now so it is the perfect time to harvest some petals and bottle some fizz! There are all sorts of flavour variations you can play around with; raspberry & rose petals, rhubarb & rose petals, or just rose petals on their own.
White Peach & Rose Petal Fizz
18 cups cold filtered water
16 cups scented pink or red rose petals*
2 rose geranium leaves (optional)**
2 lemons, halved
3 cups caster sugar
6 ripe white peaches
2 tablespoons white vinegar
ice cubes, to serve
Place four cups of cold filtered water in a large saucepan. Add 12 cups of rose petals and 1 rose geranium leaf. Bring to a simmer over a medium heat.
Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until water turns a beautiful rosy colour and petals look grey and colourless. Strain cooking liquid through a fine sieve set over a large heatproof bowl, pressing petals with a wooden spoon to remove as much liquid as possible. Discard solids.
Transfer cooking liquid to a clean saucepan. Juice 1 lemon half. Add lemon juice and sugar to cooking liquid. Place over a low heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
Pour cooking liquid into a large food safe bucket or stockpot. Add remaining cold filtered water, rose petals and rose geranium leaf. Cut peaches into wedges, reserving stones. Crack peach stones and remove kernals. Add peach wedges and kernals to rose petal mixture.
“FOR NOTHING MORE THAN A PATH OF DIRT, WATER AND CARE, YOU GET PEACHES AND MEMORIES”, Country Style Magazine, December 2014 issue.
Roughly chop remaining lemon halves. Add to rose petal mixture with vinegar. Gently stir to combine. Cover with a clean tea towel and set aside in a cool, dark place for 2 days to develop flavours.
Now it’s time to bottle. As fizz develops in bottles, pressure will build so it’s safer to use a plastic PET bottle with a little give in it. Strain rose petal mixture through a fine sieve into a large jug (don’t press down onto rose petal mixture when straining or fizz will be cloudy). Using a funnel, pour into four sterilised 1L glass bottles (don’t fill bottles to top).
Place in a cool, dark place for 5-7 days or until fine bubbles form. Store in fridge and use within one week. Refrigerating bottles will hep retard fizz growth – the warmer the fizz becomes, the more volatile it is). Place a few ice cubes in each serving glass and pour over fizz.
Note: To create this delicious drink, peaches and rose petals are left to infuse with sugar, lemon and water for a few days, then bottled to create a beautiful fizz with fine bubbles. The colour is amazing – quite pink. You can also make this fizz with rhubarb and rose petals, as well as just with rose petals. It is lovely straight over ice or mixed half and half with champagne or dry prosecco for something a bit more festive.
This drink is adapted from a recipe in A Year in a Bottle by Sally Wise (ABC Book, $24.99), plus check out the blog Tamsin’s Table – she is the lady behind this adapted fizz recipe!
*You will need about 30 roses for this recipe. Ensure roses have not been treated with sprays.
**An evergreen perennial, the rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) has rose-scented leaves and is available at garden centres. Ensure rose geranium have not been treated with sprays.
The above article is from Country Style magazine December 2014 issue. You can subscribe to Country Style here.
Photo credits: Check out our board on Pinterest for photo sources used in this post.
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Somewhere along the way the majority of us came to believe wine was simply ‘made from grapes’. Yet in bygones past, ‘wine-making’ encompassed a vast array of fruit, flowers and herbs.
Curiosity piqued, we proceeded to investigate the ancient art of dandelion wine making, resulting in a handy little instruction piece below on how to make one of the most popular flower wines in history, from one of the most common and accessible flowers available to us, the humble dandelion.
To many of us the dandelion is an annoying weed in the lawn, albeit a colourful one.
Yet in addition to dandelion wine (which also happens to be good for the digestion and liver), their leaves can be eaten in salads, and their petals make a lovely syrup to use instead of plain sugar in baked good or to pour over crepes. Apparently, dandelion syrup is known to have a unique ‘barley sugar’ flavour. (1)
Dandelion Wine: Key Tips to Getting Started
Dandelions are most abundant during spring.
Pick dandelions in full sun in the morning, after the dew has dried.
Ensure the dandelions have not been sprayed with insecticides.
Avoid roadside dandelions due to pollutants.
Begin to make your wine as soon as you get the flowers home (their petals close once picked).
Use just the petals (some wine makers use the whole flower for more ‘tang’).
Allow six months to a year after bottling before drinking.
The petals from enough complete dandelion flowers to loosely fill a gallon/3.8 litre container * 4.5 litres of water * 1.5kg sugar * Zest and juice of 4 lemons * 500g raisins (chopped or squashed by putting in a carrier bag and pounding), or 200ml can of white grape juice concentrate * 1 sachet of white wine yeast * Yeast nutrient
Easily purchased online from Australian brew-making sites: A large enough container with lid to steep 3.8 litre container of petals with 4.5 litres of water (stainless steel, earthenware, glass or un-chipped enamel) * Large saucepan * Large spoon * Sterilised funnel & sieve * Two x ‘Demijohns’ * Campden tablet * Bubble track or airlock * Bottle for final brew.
Step One: Sterilise all equipment thoroughly.
Step Two: Hold each flower by the calyx (the green bit below the petals). Snip off the petals with scissors into a clean fermenting bucket.
Step Three: Boil the water and pour over the petals (make sure you use a large enough container to do so). Cover and leave 24 hours, stirring occasionally.
Step Four: Pour everything into a large saucepan and add the lemon zest, bring to the boil then stir in the sugar until dissolved. Continue to boil for five minutes. Take off the heat and add the lemon juice and the crushed raisins or grape juice concentrate.
Step Five: Clean the fermenting bucket thoroughly using a campden tablet, pour in the mix and cover until cool. Add the yeast and yeast nutrient and cover. Ferment for three or four days then transfer into a demijohn using a sterilised sieve and funnel. Fit a bubble trap and allow to ferment for a couple of months, rack-off into a fresh demijohn, leave until clear, then bottle. (1)
Now we cannot claim to have tried this recipe, and after researching the topic of dandelion wine making online, there appears to be a number of different methodologies. We’d love to hear from anyone who is inspired enough to give it a go!