September already. The house still sits under grey skies. They have dampened our return from the north country with its blue skies, white clouds and fields of gold. There we had sunshine, and a sprinkling of magic; here the skies remain gloomy and dark.
It seems hard to welcome autumn with the usual joy and outstretched arms, when it feels as though summer has been stolen from us. But a few walks should easily re-awaken that innate love of this time of year.
There are treasures in the hedgerows. The sloes are slowly ripening, their colours a mixture of green, plum and amethyst. We’ll be watching them carefully, resisting the urge to pick too early for fear of being beaten to it, set on making this year’s batch of sloe gin.
We’ve enjoyed our first pickings (and fallings) from the greengage tree. Making one pot of jam and Nigel Slater’s greengage frangipan tart looks set to become another annual tradition, along with the sloe gin.
And our last pickings of rhubarb, several weeks ago now, have been steeping in vodka. A stash of miniature bottles (a chance find at the local car boot sale) has proved perfect for bottling the liquor up as gifts.
More have been filled with flower vinegar, a simple way to bring some summery cheer back to the table. Flowers from the garden (nasturtiums, calendula, roses, borage, marjoram and thyme) together with sprigs of lemon balm were packed into a jar, covered with white wine vinegar and left in a cool dark place for two weeks, then strained and stored.
Does September bring out the bottling and preserving instinct in you?