There’s a knack to picking gorse flowers. Gorse, or Ulex Europaeus, is spiny as all hell. The trick is to pluck the open flowers right at the end of the twigs – the open flowers have more of the scent that you want to impart flavours to your drinks (be they alcoholic or otherwise). Plus, always pluck AWAY from the twig – if you push your hand towards it you are going to get spiked.
This is what gorse looks like. it is common in Britain on sandy, acid soils. Look out for it on heathland, moorland, near the beach, and near pine trees.
There is actually loads of gorse right near my boat, in Tesco car park, but that’s not where you want to be picking – they’ll be covered in exhaust fumes and probably contain rats and empty cans of cheap cider. Far better to pick somewhere away from all that. I trotted over to Rushmere Country Park and immersed myself in the tranquility below tall windswept Scots pines, like the middle class reprobate I am. So here is a poetry warning. Look away now if you need to.
warm coconut lemon wind,
fingers pricked as they pluck
silken imperial yellow.
soft grass like hay,
birds fluting stunning morse
and those orchid blooms
held by gladiators fearsome.
After picking my way like a deer through snares of bramble, I managed to collect about three pint cups worth of gorse blooms. It did take quite a while, (two hours), but perhaps that was due to me suffering from a few too many down the Black Lion the night before. Things were made more amusing when a man and dog came over to check I hadn’t met my end in a bush, having seen what they thought was an abandoned bag!
One pint I bunged straight away into clean jam jar and filled it to the brim with white rum, adding just half a tsp of sugar and half a lime zest.. Hey presto! Gorse rum! Strain the flowers out after 24 hours.
I had a go at mixing a generous shot of gorse rum with a shot of gorse cordial, then topping it up with sparkling water and a slice of lime in a Prosecco glass. The result? Very moreish, but a bit on the sweet side!! I will do it with bitter lemon water next time, and maybe half as much cordial…
Check out Riverford Organics take on a classic Dark & Stormy cocktail, using ginger, citrus and soda water and lots of gorse rum.
For those of you that need to operate heavy machinery in the next 12 hours, or if you are under 18, try Gorse Cordial.
The recipe I used called for:
2 cups gorse flowers (1 pint glass)
1 lime, with zest grated
1 orange, zest grated
1 pint of water
All you do is put the water and sugar in a saucepan, boil it for 10 minutes, then let it cool for a few minutes. Add the grated citrus zests and squeeze in the juices. Then bung in the gorse flowers and cover Leave it in the fridge or in a cool place overnight. If you want to use it in the next few days, you can just sieve out the flowers and zest and bottle it. If you want it to last longer, boil it again for a few minutes then pour into a sterilised bottle and seal. A voila! Gorse cordial. Make it into a pretty gift by wrapping some hessian or that checker cheesecloth stuff over the top of the bottle, and make a label.
Next I thought id try a Gorse Jelly, after reading exciting accounts from previous Master Chef contestants. (Yours truly is NOT a previous Master Chef contestant). I used a sachet of Vegi Gel, the Gorse cordial, half a lime, some Oatly since cream, some grated dark chocolate and grated ginger and a handful of Gorse flowers.
My verdict? Maybe I should have used fresh gorse flowers instead of the cordial. Some recipes seem to use these. It was tasty enough, but I couldn’t taste much of the ‘coconutty’ scent and taste of the gorse. I guess ginger is quite overpowering too. So next time I will use twice as many flowers and leave out the ginger…
Stay tuned for some wild booze cocktail experiments with my friend Rick the cocktail barman soon…