Strawberry vinegar (naturally gluten-free; dairy-free; vegan)

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June 2020, homemade strawberry vinegars. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello everyone. I hope you are well. I can hardly believe that we are halfway through the year already! Where does the time go? This is such a great time of the year for homegrown produce. The strawberries in particular seem particularly good this year. Very fragrant and sweet. To mark midsummer on the calendar, I decided to make some strawberry vinegar this week to capture the flavour of the season.

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Wild and cultivated Scottish strawberries. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have a few wild strawberry plants growing around the garden and I managed to harvest a handful of ripe berries before the birds got to them. The cultivated ones came from a local farm shop. Perfectly formed heart-shaped fruit, sweet and delicious, and perfect for flavouring vinegar.

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Ingredients and equipment for fruit vinegar making. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

In the past I have used white balsamic vinegar as a base, but as the fruit is so sweet this year, I used a plain white wine vinegar. A clean screw-top bottle for the wild strawberry vinegar, and a wide-neck screw-top jar for the larger berries. Make sure the lids are non-corrosive and that everything is very clean for perfect results. The method is the same for any berry.

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Strawberry vinegar preparation. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Wash and pat dry the fruit and remove stalks and hulls, etc. Prick larger fruit with a small skewer a few times before putting in the jar to help release the juices. Depending on the time of year you are making fruit vinegar, you may want to warm the vinegar slightly before you pour it over the fruit. The temperature here was quite warm this week, so I just used the vinegar straight from the bottle. Simply cover the fruit with vinegar and seal it up. How much fruit you use is up to you, I like to use a fair bit to start with to give a more intense flavour at the beginning.

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Maturing on with windowsill. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

Leave the vinegar on a bright windowsill, and give it a light shake each day. You will see the colour change quite quickly. I leave the first lot of berries in the vinegar for 3 or 4 days, then I strain off the vinegar and add a fresh batch of berries. After the second addition, put the vinegar in a cool, dark place and after this time you will end up with a vinegar ready to use in about a month. For longer storage, remove the fruit after a month. rebottle and seal until ready to use.

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Strawberry heart. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

As I type this last paragraph, it is still very bright here at just after 9.30pm and the sky still has patches of blue here and there. Until next time, I wish you a happy summer solstice and midsummer eve 🙂

Early June in a Scottish garden

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The colours of early June. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Hello again. I hope you have had a good few days. It has been lovely weather here. Plenty of blue sky days, and also, I’m pleased to say, some rain at long last. The water butt is full up again and the garden refreshed. We’re still under lockdown here in Scotland although restrictions have been lifted a little. There is plenty to keep me occupied outside.

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A June favourite. lovely Lupins. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

No June garden round-up of mine would be complete without Lupin pictures. They have been open for a couple of weeks now. The heat and strong sunshine has forced the purple ones over already, but the orange and pinks one are holding up well.

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A trio of Iris. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

I have been trying to resurrect Iris corms for a couple of years unsuccessfully, but this year I have achieved 3 out of 6. The blue ones are both Iris Pallida – one for some reason has grown much paler than the other – they smell sweet and sugary, like bubblegum. The pink one is called Wine and Roses and is slightly spicier in aroma. I will be lifting and dividing them all with care in the Autumn and hoping that I might have at last found the the right locations for them in the garden.

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Alliums and Armeria. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

It’s a good year for the Alliums too. The few bulbs I planted about 3 years ago have steadily multiplied and are now growing in small groups. To be honest, how these 6 managed to grow side by side to the exact same height I will never know; if I had tried to achieve this formation myself, I’m pretty sure it would never have happened like this! The Armeria (Thrift) is looking very healthy too. The bees love it; it is a very cheery sight in a narrow flower border beside a path. Talking of bees, here’s another favourite flower of our little winged friends……

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Persicaria and bee. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

There are lots of scents in the garden at the moment. The Day Lilies have just come out and make weeding a real pleasure when you happen to be working in a spot near to where they grow. The Gorse bush at the top of the garden is also very fragrant (spicy vanilla) but more inaccessible to work near so I leave this one for the insects.

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Day Lilies. Image: Kathryn Hawkins
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Vanilla-scented Gorse. Image: Kathryn Hawkins

Along side the Gorse bush, in a shady corner, dark blue and bright blue Aquilegia (Columbine) grow. There are lots of pink and white varieties growing all over the place but the blue ones like to stay in this part of the garden for some reason. They do make a lovely contrast to the bright yellow Gorse flowers.

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Blue Aquilegia. Images: Kathryn Hawkins

That’s me for another week or so. I was hoping to have included Peony images this time but they are still in quite tight bud. I’m sure a few more days of sunshine and they will be blooming by the end of the week. Until next time, take care and enjoy the sunshine 🙂