Sunday, June 14, 2009

Don't get used to this

After a long evening of lightning and thunder, punctuated by sudden sweeps of fierce rain, this morning dawned clear, crisp and cool, with last night's rain sparkling on everything.

It is the middle of June, and time to make something I haven't made in decades—elderblossom fritters.

The first step is to mix up the fritter batter, because it needs to rest a while before it's used. I am surprised to see the recipe calls for flat beer; either I had completely forgotten about that or I used a different recipe in the past. Not surprisingly, we have flat beer on hand—several quarts of it in fact, in several different styles, all of them homebrewed by one of us.

As I had chosen the mixed dark beer/stout leftovers for a batch of early-morning beer bread (sweet, with cinnamon, raisins and cranberries), I decided Phil's flat lager would be just the thing to compliment the delicate floral flavor of the elder blossoms. And, there would still be plenty of both left over for the next beer recycling project.

We were lucky enough last summer to uncover a healthy elderberry bush near at hand, just off the cemetery. With clippers in hand, I cautiously navigated the maze of berry canes, poison ivy and greenbrier until I was able to gently clip a handful of lacy, pure white blossoms.

The secret to making good fritters is to remove as much surface moisture from what you are coating with batter; it lets the batter adhere to the surface and reduces the amount of grease spattering. But the night's rain had left water droplets lodged in every nook and cranny of the complex blossoms; placing them on paper towels did little.

So I did the only reasonable thing. I put a few blossoms at a time in the salad spinner, very gently spun it up to speed, and let it slow down in its own sweet time. By the time I was done, the batter had warmed up to room temperature and the oil had reached frying temperature.

The light blossoms resisted being coated with the thick batter, but with a little coaxing, they relented. A quick frying of about three minutes on a side, and they were golden brown, crisp and fragrant. And I was right about selecting Phil's lager—it made a subtle and delicate contribution to the flavor without overpowering the blossoms themselves.

So by about nine o'clock on a brilliant Sunday morning in mid-June, the lot of us were standing around the kitchen, sipping spiced coffee with fresh milk, eating beer bread warm from the oven, and munching on fresh Elderblossom fritters lightly dusted with powdered sugar.

Not gonna happen often, but sure was good.

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