Archive for ‘Cordial’

July 3, 2013

Back in Blog… still foraging, still cooking, still gardening…

by Ciaran Burke


Oh how time has flown… it has been quite a while since I last posted a blog on this site. Its not that I have lost interest in gardening,  foraging and cooking, I still vey much have a passion for blooms and food.

Over the last months I have been taking my foraging activities to a new degree and have started a new food business called NjAM Foods. utilizing nature’s bounty I have been busy developing a range of wild flower cordials, ketchups and jams.


This is an exciting venture. I travel around the quiet roads in our locality and harvest flowers from flowering currant, gorse, dandelion and lately elder. I love the idea of using the wild plants to produce a food product which is uniue and delicious and really captures a true taste of the Irish countryside. Apart from the harvesting, there is the cooking, bottling, labelling, marketing and deliveries, it takes quite a bit of work to convert a flower in the hedgerow to a product on the shelf of a shop, but it is a fun new challenge.


So far a number of outlets are stocking NjAM Foods products:

Cafe Rua, Castlebar, Co. Mayo

Dew C Fruit & Veg, Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon

Kate’s Place, Oranmore Town Centre, Orenmore, Co. Galway

Brid Tiernan at the Carrick on Shannon, Longford and Boyle Farmers Markets


Brogans’s Health Food Store in Bioyle.

The products we have made include Beetroot ketchup, Carrot Ketchup and Beer Ketchup. The wild flower cordials include Elderflower, Gorse, Flowering Currant, Danelion and soon it will be time to pick meadowsweet blossoms.

I have also been making jams; gorse flower, elderflower and meadowsweet from the wild flowers. Pina Colada, Rose and Apple are a bit more unusal but we are also making rhubarb and Vvanilla and delicious strawberry jam.

For some of our clients we supply the products labelled specifically for our suppliers as we do for Kate’s Place and our gorse flower jam for Cafe Rua.


We have a website, a Facebook Page and Twitter account too…

Njam Facebook page

Njam on twitter

I have also been busy with our Scoodoos, ancient tree spirits helping to save the planet, and my one tree photogrpahy project

I have also had time to forage for dinner and have been using foraged wild plants to give a wild twist to a couple of indian recipes… next blog will feature Saag Nettle Panir… and it wont be 4 months, promise…

December 2, 2012

Glögi – a Finnish Christmas drink recipe

by Ciaran Burke


Glögi is a Christmas drink based on grape juice and flavoured with spices, served hot with raisins and almonds. it does not contain alcohol but if a Finn wants to perk it up with extra with booze they will add red wine and vodka! In our Christmas wreath workshop we had this delicious hot drink, without the booze!

Here is a link to the Christmas Wreath Workshop

Glögi – Recipe


  • 1 litre red grape juice (we used home made grape cordial)
  • A few strips of organic orange peel
  • 1 Cinnamon stick
  • 6-8 whole cloves
  • 4 cardamon pods
  • 4-6 whole all spice corns (or 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice)



  1. Put all the ingredients into a saucepan and bring to boil
  2. Leave to simmer on a low heat with lid on for 10 minutes
  3. Leave to cool
  4. When cooled sieve to remove the spices
  5. Re-heat and drink, or dilute with hot water to taste
  6. Serve with a teaspoonful of raisins and a few skinned whole almonds in each cup


You can use other juices instead of red grape. Try using white grape, apple, cranberry or elderberry.

June 20, 2012

Rose Petal Cordial – Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Roses, there is no other plant with so much symbolism attached to it, war of the roses, symbol of love and Shakespeare quotes… Roses in the garden can be a pain, not just the literal ache when a prickle, not a thorn,gets stuck in your flesh. Roses have prickles not thorns, thorns are modified shoots while roses have prickles that arise as modifications from the skin of the stem, the song by Poison “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” is just botanically inaccurate! Roses are a pain because many of them get diseases such as rust, black spot and powdery mildew and can be really troubled by aphids (green fly).

‘Roseraie de l’Hay’

There are roses that have resistance to diseases and one group called Rugosa hybrids provides us with many cultivars that are robust and disease free, wind resistant and vigorous. Their flowers are often strongly fragrant and  produced in succession throughout the summer. Even when they get aphids they seem to be quite untroubled. Cultivars such as ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’  and  ‘Schneekoppe’ and ‘Blanc Double de Coubert’ are hybrids crossed with wild Rosa rugosa, they combine the ruggedness of the wild species but inherit refinement and beauty expected of a good garden rose. Although less of a pain in terms of care, they can cause literal pain, as there are few other roses have so many prickles along their stems. Ah well every rose has its… prickles.

Their fragrance can drift on the warm summer air, often when I smell roses I think of Turkish Delight. The sweet, a red coloured jelly flavoured with rose petals, that got me thinking…

Rose petals in water

So here we have Rose Petal Cordial, the rich and seductive fragrance of rugosa roses captured in a flavoursome cordial to enjoy at anytime.

Rose Petal Cordial Recipe


  • 12 flowers of a double rugosa rose eg. ‘Rosarie de l’Hay’
  • 2 Litre of water
  • 3 slices of lemon
  • 250g of Fruisana fruit sugar

Pulling away the petals, discard dis-coloured petals


  1. Remove the Rose petals from the flower stalks and put in a glass jar
  2. add the lemon slices and water
  3. Leave to stand for 48 hours in a cool dark place.
  4. Remove the lemons and cook petals and water in a saucepan.
  5. Add sugar as the water heats and continue cooking until boiling
  6. Sieve the liquid into sterilized glass bottles
  7. Allow to cool
  8. Dilute 1:10 cordial to water or according to taste.

We used some cordial to make rose jelly using carageenan seaweed. More on that later…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

June 16, 2012

Respect Your Elders – Elderflower Cordial Recipe

by Ciaran Burke

Elder flowers and foliage- cultivar selection

It’s wild. Its everywhere. Its elder flower –Sambucus nigra. In the month of June its flat flower heads whiten hedgerows and fields around Ireland. Outside my office window I can see the branches bob and sway with the breeze. Seedlings all too often appear in the garden, unwanted, in abundance. But I don’t mind, the elder flower is a handsome plant and it provides much pleasure, not only to look at, but for the taste buds too.

There are some really good garden varieties of the common elder. The dark leaved S. nigra ‘Black Beauty’ not only has dark seductive divided leaves but also bears beautiful pink flowers. Just like the wild one, it is vigorous and tough. If elders are pruned hard in the spring they re-grow with increased vigour and produce enlarged foliage, but flowers are absent. Dark leaved cultivars can be treated in this manner to produce excellent foliage plants. They provide interest to a herbaceous or mixed border. The finer leaved S. nigra ‘Black Lace’ is excellent when treated this way.

One of my favourite is the green cut leafed cultivar, S. nigra ‘Laciniata’. A beautiful textured plant with darker green foliage than the native species. The flowers are said to be bigger too, but I have been cutting our plants back each year. I moved one to a new position this Spring, this one I will leave to flower. Another with intriguing foliage is S. nigra ‘Marginata’, the leaves are edged with creamy white variegation. It produces flowers in the same way as the species.

The flowers will fade by mid-July and in the Autumn the dark purple berries hang in masses from the branches. Both the flowers and fruit can be made into a delicious cordial. The fruits can also be used for making wine and last year we used the fruits to make an autumn pudding, a recipe I got from an old book which also used sloes and blackberries. A closely related species is the North American S. canadensis. This flowers later in July and I have read that it can produce flowers over a longer period.We have one in a pot which we purchased as a small plant from Turku Botanical Gardens in Finland last summer. I plan on planting this in the garden in the next few days, the idea of being able to harvest elder flowers throughout the whole summer really appeals to me.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been cutting flower heads to make Elder Flower Cordial. if you have not tasted home made cordial, you are really missing out. Sweet and delicious, diluted with still or sparkling water, the taste of summer…

Elder flower cordial is very easy to make. Here is how!


  • 10 or 12 Bunches of cut flowers, freshly opened flowers are best.
  • 0.5 Kg (1lb) Fruisana fruit sugar
  • 3.0 L water (about 5.5 pint) of water
  • A lemon cut in four

Elder flowers and lemon


I use a  plastic food storage bucket

  1. Wash the elder flowers in cold water.
  2. Place the flower heads in the jar with the cut lemon
  3. Leave in a cool place for 48 hours so that the flavour of the elder infuses.
  4. In a saucepan heat the water and elder flowers, remove the lemon. (you can use the lemon separately to make lemonade)
  5. Dissolve the sugar in the water and bring to the boil.
  6. Strain the fluid through a muslin cloth and fill into sterilized bottles
  7. Store in a cool dark place.

To enjoy the cordial dilute with water (still or sparkling) about 1 part cordial to 10 water or to taste. It is also great when added as a dash to apple juice.

Elder flower- Sambucus nigra

April 29, 2012

Gorse Flower Cordial

by Ciaran Burke


Gorse bushes can be seen all over the countryside, their florescent yellow bloom light the hillsides, a blaze of colour across the land. Unfortunately sometimes their blaze is literal, their oil rich wood all too quickly ignites in dry weather and fires of gorse burn fiercely every year. The truth is that gorse is often hated, it spreads like, well, wild fire, and land is quickly colonized by its spiny stems.

Ulex europeaus; gorse, furze or whin, growing on the road near our house

Ulex europeaus; gorse, furze or whin, growing on the road near our house

Even in our own garden, the one acre of land that we endeavour to tame and reclaim from the wild clutches of vegetation, we have a love and hate relationship with this shrub botanically called Ulex europeaus. When the blooms are out their sweet fragrance drifts through the air, along the roadsides as we take a morning walk the sweet coconut scents waft along the country lane. In early morning sunlight the blooms glow bright, it is beautiful, yet we cut it from the garden. There is an old Irish saying that says that the time for kissing is when the gorse is in blossom, Iuckily it is not just our spring walks that are enhanced by this terrible beauty, but at any time of the year you can find a gorse bush in flower.

Gorse shrub flowering by the stream that runs behind our garden

Gorse shrub flowering by the stream that runs behind our garden

These days a gorse covered field is seen as a waste land, but in times past the gorse, which is also called furze or whin, was seen as a sign of prosperous land. The old Irish saying “An t-ór fé’n aiteann, an t-airgead fé’n luachair agus an gorta fé’n bhfraoch”, says gold under gorse, silver under rushes and famine under heather. Around our garden are rushes, heather and gorse. Heather grows in the bog, rushes in wetter soil but gorse grows on the drier soil. In the past gorse hedges made great barriers for lives stock and walking sticks were made from the wood. But I am sure if you ask most people if there is any use for gorse they will say there is none.

On the way home with the harvest

On the way home with the harvest

Each morning as I smell its fragrance on the air if makes me hungry, it has a sweet foody smell, surely there is a use for gorse? After searching for a bit I found a recipe for gorse flowers, gorse cordial. With some enthusiasm my wife Hanna and I brought our wheel barrow for a short walk along the road and cut some flowering shoots, quite a few flowering shoots in fact, a whole wheel barrow full. We wore thick gloves and brought our loppers, they are incredibly spiney. We then brought them home and removed the flowers with a scissors. Below is the recipe that we used, it is quite delicious!


  • 1.5 litre of gorse flowers
  • 250g of fructose sugar (fruit sugar)
  • 900ml of water
  • Juice of one lemon
Squeezing lemon juice

Squeezing lemon juice


  1. In a saucepan slowly add the sugar to the water and stir to dissolve. Boil for ten minutes with the lid on.
  2. Place the prepared flowers in a large bowl and pour the sugar and water over the flowers
  3. Add the lemon juice.
  4. Cover with a plate and leave to cool over night
  5. The next morning squeeze the flowers and water though muslin cloth.
  6. Bottle the cordial in sterilized bottles.


  • Dilute the cordial with still or sparkling water, about 1:10 (cordial:water or to taste). Refrigerate the cordial after opening.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

%d bloggers like this: