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Tasting The Lot, Springing into Summer

At last the summer is on its way. For Tasting The Lot it means exactly that…..Tasting The Lot!! Markets are starting to fill up with sumptuous fresh locally grown produce, shops are beginning to think tourist season and the fields and gardens are blossoming. Nature’s bounty is overflowing!

May and June at Tasting The Lot are dedicated to cooking with garlic and lavender. The very thought of these two things growing in my garden and being readily available is just as exciting as the swallows, swifts and house martins arriving.

Summer is, most definitely, on its way.

France, for me, is flavoured with garlic and decorated with lavender (and sunflowers, of course, though my recipes for sunflowers and their seeds are quite limited at the moment, though grinding up the seeds to use flour for gluten free recipes is, so far, my best use for seeds apart from eating them whole and the oil is delicious alternative to olive oil, groundnut or maize and is lovely when used in carrot cakes and other sweet desserts.)


Garlic has its own fascinating history, it’s not certain when it was discovered, it was probably first dispersed by nomads on the steppes of central Asia several thousand years ago, grown in the Middle East by the Sumerians over 5000 years ago and in the 8th century BC garlic was growing in the garden of Babylon. There are pictures of garlic apparently on the wall of Tutankhamun’s burial chamber, Chinese scholars spoke of it as far back as 3000 BC and there is also a reference in the Shih Ching (the book of songs), a collection of ballads said to have been written by Confucius himself. Garlic was so prized in ceremony and ritual, that lambs offered for sacrifice in China were seasoned with it to make them more pleasing to the gods.

Garlic was introduced into France by Godefroy de Bouillon, leader of the first crusade in 1096 and not the maker of the stock cube, when he returned to the country in 1099, he was elected king of Jerusalem.

Garlic has great history of being used as a remedy for many ailments, as far back as Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used it for treating infections, wounds and intestinal disorders. As for its ability to ward off evil (the devil, Dracula and all ills) well, who knows!!

The first thing to be harvested each year in my garden is garlic. White garlic was  planted in October last year for harvesting at the beginning of June and the pink garlic is just planted as I write this (March) to be harvested the end of July. You can of course buy garlic the whole year round, but freshly harvested (even bought from your local market fresh!) garlic is so full of flavour, so easy to grow. Take a clove of garlic (unpeeled) and bury it in the ground about 5cm deep and 15cm apart. Water in and let nature take over. It really is that simple! Well worth the bending down to plant in the ground.

Let it grow until it reaches about 30cm high. Harvest, let it dry if you can for about a month before using, somewhere out of reach of mice and the damp. You must wait for the leaves to dry before plaiting!

If you are like me a store cupboard hoarder, then this is a great recipe to have all year-round garlic of your own.

Pickled garlic cloves: To pickle garlic, you must use raw garlic.

For easy peeling of garlic, you need 2 same size metal bowls, loosen the bulbs of garlic by squashing it to release the cloves, place all in a metal bowl, put the second bowl over the top to make a globe type shape and shake like no tomorrow. This should shake all the skins off the cloves and Voila, peeled garlic. If it doesn’t work for you, not shaking hard enough!  Alternatively, place the cloves in boiling water for about 2 minutes and then you can squeeze the garlic cloves out of its skins. If you can’t do it, then I am afraid you will have to peel them all!


500g garlic cloves, peeled (about 10 garlic bulbs), 300ml white wine vinegar (5% or over) 180ml water, 1 tbsp pickling salt( or sea salt, don’t use table salt, the preservatives in it can turn the garlic blue, pretty, but not the best idea)4 bay leaves, 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, 4 tsp mustard seeds, 2 tsp mixed peppercorns, 1 tsp chili flakes, 1 tbsp dry oregano, 4 slices of lemon, 4 ft kitchen string and a large lidded saucepan to act as a water bath (if you don’t have a water bath!)


Sterilize the jars and lids and set aside. Fill a pan with water that is deep enough and wide enough to hold the filled jars. Place a towel in the bottom to soften the boiling process. (or buy a water bath!) Bring to boil.

Combine vinegar, water and salt in another pan and simmer so the salt dissolves completely, take off the heat. Divide herbs evenly between jars and then follow with garlic. Don't overcrowd the jars by pushing the garlic down. Pour the brine mixture over making sure that the garlic is completely submerged and that there is about 2 cm of free space at the top so that you can place a slice of lemon on the top to help keep garlic under the level of the brine. Using a toothpick release any air pockets if you see any. Seal the jars tightly. Wrap each jar in a newspaper (to prevent jars from cracking in case they hit against each other) and tie kitchen string tightly around the top of each jar leaving ends loose, so you can safely and securely lower jars into the hot water bath. No need for string if you have long tongs. Simmer on low heat for 15 minutes. When done, cover the top of your pan with a lid and drain the water as you would do with boiled potatoes inside. Cool pickled garlic jars to room temperature. Well worth the effort.


So many articles are written about lavender. I love it. I come from The Cotswolds in England and very close to where I lived is Snowshill Lavender Farm. I worked very closely with the owner trying out many recipes of things to sell in the café. Great fun and I still love Lavender shortbread. Many tried and tested recipes are available on my website, but this Lemon and Lavender marmalade has been my most popular recipe to date. I now have lots of people I make and give this marmalade to. It came second in the WI Jam Competition in 2012, beaten by pineapple and coconut of all things. A visit to the lavender farms in our region are well worth it. June and July are the best times for colour and harvesting.  Culinary lavender is well worth buying and keeping a store of. I make my own Herbs de Provence seasoning as the shop bought does not seem to contain lavender. You too can do this by grinding 2 sprigs rosemary, 3 bay leaves and 1 tsp fennel seed in a spice grinder; transfer to a mixing bowl. Stir 1 tsp of each savory, thyme, basil, marjoram, lavender, parsley, oregano, tarragon with the rosemary and fennel. Store in an airtight container or jar as you would for other herbs. Delicious on a roast chicken!


Lemon and lavender marmalade makes 8 jars

Adapted from my Ma’s “what an awful mess “marmalade

Ingredients : 1kg lemons, 1.6kg granulated sugar, 1.6ltrs water and 2 tsp dried lavender


In a clean jam pan, wash and peel the lemons. Save the fruit for the next step. Slice the peel and pith into thin strips. (as thin as you can manage) Add to the saucepan. Cut and juice the peeled lemons. Add the juice to the pan, discard all pips. Wrap the squeezed lemons in a muslin cloth, tie up and add to the pan.

Pour the water over the lemon juice, peel and pith in the jam and slowly bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, 1 ½ -2 hours until peel is very soft and the liquid is reduced by half. Remove the muslin bag and place in colander and let cool for at least 5 minutes, when cool to touch, squeeze the muslin to get as much juice and pectin into the pan. The harder you squeeze the cloudier the finished marmalade will be. The pectin makes it set better, so the more you have the better the set.

Add the lavender flowers and sugar to the pan, stir until sugar is dissolved. Return to the boil and boil rapidly for 15 minutes. Keep stirring in 1 direction, if rotate stirring, will make bubbles and marmalade will not look clear in jars. Continue to boil and keep checking for set (put small amount on cold saucer and check for wrinkles) When perfect set is reached, leave for 10 minutes and skim off any foam with slotted spoon. Pour into sterilized jars, seal and label.

Perfect with scones, as a filling in a lemon sponge or used as a marinade over chicken.

Next edition is all about wine tastings in the area through July and August. Please do contact me or follow on Facebook, Twitter and www.tasting-the-lot.com for more information.

Happy Tasting

Luci Cox


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