Right now the Taste of Wisley kitchens are all about berries. I’ve just finished with Wisley-grown white, red and blackcurrants and now have a fantastic selection – 12 varieties – of gooseberries, plus some blueberries.
Lemonade is a wonderful way to get twice the value from the fruit we’re cooking. It’s simply fruit pulp or purée with lemon juice, sugar syrup and still or fizzy water.
So, when making blackcurrant jam last week, which needs sieving to remove the woody bits, I took the leftover pulp, soaked it in water for a bit then sieved it again to make our blackcurrant lemonade base.
In fact in the case of blackcurrants we get three or four uses out of the fruit! I also took some of the blackcurrant liquid, added a vanilla pod and vodka and turned it into a tipple that we can use for cocktails, or to flavour trifle and panna cotta.
Some Wisley gooseberries are so sweet they can be eaten raw. We will use the large ones whole for the cheesecake served in the Food Hall and Restaurant, and the smaller ones for jams and lemonade. With very sour-tasting gooseberries we tend to add elderflower, and often a chopped apple as well, which lends its pectin to the purée for jam making.
Our repertoire of lemonade recipes is now so diverse we’re making it year-round from Wisley produce...
Using a thick fruit purée will give a cloudy lemonade, or you can sieve it so the drink is clearer – amazingly you don’t lose any of the flavour when you do this, merely the slushiness, which some people don't like.
I’m particularly pleased with the raspberry and green apple lemonade I made last week using green apple purée with just a few berries thrown in. The green apple flavour really stands out, making the drink tart yet sweet.
Our repertoire of lemonade recipes is now so diverse we’re making it year-round from Wisley produce. Soon we will sell apple lemonade, or apple and ginger, and, as we roll into December we shall add a touch of mulled spices as a nod to Christmas. Once the rhubarb comes in, we will use that. Of course, if you freeze fruit purée in ice-cube trays it allows you to extend the season and make flavoured lemonades whenever you wish.
Herbs help us ring the changes too, with mixtures such as gooseberry and chocolate mint lemonade, and apple with gooseberry and rosemary. If making herb-flavoured lemonade at home, remember you only need a tiny amount of rosemary as it’s so dry and strong.
Do make sure you try our homemade lemonade next time you visit RHS Garden Wisley. No need to wait for hot weather, though it is very refreshing when the sun’s intense. It’s also a great non-alcoholic option for drivers.