Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy May Day!

My favorite part of spring and May is sweet woodruff.  If you have shade, you need sweet woodruff, Galium odoratum.    It has whorl leaves and tiny white flowers.  It is a native of northern and central Europe.  When we got a new air conditioner several years, The Herbal Husband frantically moved clumps of sweet woodruff to the back of our property under the birdbath.  It was used as a strewing herb and a mattress-stuffer and it is still used for potpourris and air freshners.  It is used in Germany to make Rhine wine into May wine.  In the long days of summer, it does need to be kept moist.  Adelma Simmons, owner of Caprilands, loved to celebrate May Day.  Here is her Caprilands May Wine recipe:

Caprilands May Wine
1 gallon Rhine wine
12 sprigs or more sweet woodruff
1 10-ounce package sliced frozen strawberries
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups brandy (optional)
1 quart fresh strawberries or 1 twenty-ounce bag frozen whole strawberries

Pick the woodruff and heat 3 or 4 leaves in the oven to bring out the coumarin which has the fragrance of new-mown hay and is a fixative for other odors.  Let stand in the wine 3 to 7 days to bring out the flavor.  Or, follow the suggestion of a German friend and get this woodruff flavor by putting the herb in a bottle of brandy for use at any time through the year.

To prepare the bowl:  Put in a block of ice, ladle the wine mixture over it to chill; add the brandy if you wish.  Mash sliced strawberries with sugar.  Stir into the wine mixture.  (Remove the dried woodruff or not, as you wish.) Garnish with fresh woodruff and scatter spring flowers upon the pink surface of the punch, as Johnny-jump-ups and purple and white violets.  Put a whole strawberry in each cup and a floating flower as you ladle in the punch.  Makes about 50 punch-cup servings.

Hints:  Champagne is tradiitional for May wine punch.  Sometimes we use half champagne and half Rhine wine.  With champagne, the punch must be served immediately.  To avoid diluting the wine too much, especially if you are serving for several hours, pack the bowl in a large vessel of ice.  Do not use quick-melting ice cubes, but a large block of ice in the bowl.

For Wine Jelly of fine flavor, use leftover punch, allowing 2 cups of it to 2 cups of granulated sugar with commercial liquid pectin to make it jell.

Recipe taken from Simmons, Adelma Grenier, Herb Gardening in Five Seasons, New York: Plume, Page 82.

Just thinking, maybe there is a new flavor of jelly in my future!  Hope you had a great day and you can use this recipe some other day in May!


Tufa Girl said...

I have always wanted to try the May wine with Sweet woodruff and strawberries. It is way too hot in Central Texas for growing sweet woodruff here successfully.

lemonverbenalady said...

Too bad, TG! Sweet woodruff is a wonderful ground cover for the shady areas of the garden. Thanks for stopping by as always!

taylorsoutback said...

Thank you for bringing back a wonderful memory - a day spent with Adelma at Caprilands - so long ago...rose petals scattered on those ancient wood floors in her house as we sat down to a memorable herbal luncheon. My Mom & I still talk about it.
My sweet woodruff is just beginning to show - always late here.

lemonverbenalady said...

Maybe we were there on the same day! The Herbal Husband and I were there with rose petals strewn on the floor as well! The food was wonderful. Celebrating the summer solstice! Adelma, what a treasure!