Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RAVES!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 08/05/22

Passing On The Batons

Having had a very successful first attempt at making wild garlic butter last year, it was time to go for it again on Saturday.

I'd been keeping an eye on the crop for a few weeks, waiting a little so that I wouldn't make 2022's batch too soon and have it run out before autumn. After I'd got home from Sainbsury's (where the latest addition to the MIA list was their own-brand Wensleydale cheese; plenty of Italian though, along with the usual near-infinite variations on the theme of 'cheddar') and packed away what I had been able to get, I stuffed some butty bags into my inside jacket pocket and set off to The Secret Location.

Reaching my target, I set to it at once. Two amendments from last year, though: firstly, I took four bags instead of three, because I figured out that now that I knew what I was doing - and that what I was doing worked - I might as well go large (as I'm afraid they say nowadays); secondly, I made sure that I got nearly every leaf with its stem as well, as it had been a bit frustrating last time that I had ended up with so few stems to add to my cooking.

Working down one side of the footpath, I took one bag's worth from one area and then moved further along to fill the second bag. This avoids leaving large denuded patches like a form of allium alopecia (Oh-oh! Is Will Smith in the house? If so, I didn't say that); all you should ever do is to thin the growth out a little bit. I then switched across to the slightly more sparsely populated opposite side of the path - again trying to avoid the very edge of the right of way in order to minimise the possible effects of dogs having been walked thereabouts - and filled the remaining two bags. Mission accomplished after about half an hour, I stuffed the very full bags into one of my outside pockets - having realised halfway to my destination that I had left the carrier bag in which I had intended to put the bags lying on the arm of the sofa - and headed home.

Setting to it to wash my stash, I found that I had to rinse them in batches, so much had I taken...

(Don't worry; there was still plenty left for anyone who wanted it, like the fellow I got talking to on the way back who said that his wife was quite partial to garlic and would check it out)

...before laying them on sheets of kitchen paper to dry for a couple of hours.

Returning to the task after lunch, I then cut all the stems off and put them in a sealed bowl in the fridge to be used in various dishes in the coming week or so (or just for nibbling inbetween times if I fancy it).

It was then time for the heavy work. I unshipped the old Sunbeam blender from the cupboard I had stored it away in last May, and I fed batches of the leaves into it and scraped the finely-chopped result into a large mixing bowl.

(The kitchen - and I - was starting to ming at this point, of course. It - and I - has smelled of far worse, I can assure you).

It was then time to get out the Philips food processor from the same kitchen cupboard. This is of scarcely any less venerable a vintage than the blender - possibly thirty-five to forty years old, both of them - and they both had home-fitted plugs on them as a consequence. Into this, I put one 250g pack of Castle Dairies of Caerphilly's unsalted butter - left out to soften up after I'd bought it that morning - and a quarter of the chopped leaves. After giving them a good powerful whizz around, I then spooned the result onto the two layers of cling film laid down on the worktop - leaving about an inch at either end - before rolling them up into batons and twisting up and tagging off the ends. Then it was a case of repeating the exercise with the remaining three packs of butter and the rest of the leaves.

I ended up with eight batons - I had made only six last time with the same amount of butter, but this time the roll of cling film was somewhat narrower; and if you think Sellotape is frustrating when you lose the end of it, cling film is a whole new dimension of hurt - which looked like this before I put them away in the freezer:

Photo of eight batons of home-made wild garlic butter

It's not a good photo I know, even taking into account the reduction in file size necessary not to use up too much server space, in addition to which the slight trembling in my right hand which has been annoying me intermittently for about thirty-five years was being a proper sod when I was trying to take the picture.

I must admit that the batons themselves look slightly unwholesome anyway, especially if your imagination runs in certain directions; they resemble colostomy bags for Ents, for example. But they're actually full of goodness (even more so given that more leaves went into the making of them this year) and - having already used some of the stems in my rice on Saturday (I could still taste them above the savour of the tinned beef curry which I have been forced to use in the absence of my dear King Prawn Makhani) and in my sautÚd mushroom recipe this afternoon (they added a nice little extra touch, I felt) - I look forward to a summer and early autumn of flavourful eating.

Bon appetit!