Confession time. I’m brand new to gardening, apart from ‘helping’ my grandparents when I was a small child. Five months in – I started in early April – I’ve found that there’s nothing like planting a garden from scratch to make you learn quickly.
Hyssop is one of my new-found discoveries and joys.
Everything about it appeals to me (and, seemingly, to the local bees) - the deep green shiny foliage, its regal purple flowers, and its unique bitter mintgreen scent.
To cap it all, of course, I love the fact that I can use it for cooking.
To my palate, hyssop has a natural affinity with greengages – those luscious juicy green plums which we see so rarely. Happily, like a lot of soft fruit in these parts this summer, there appears to be a strong showing this year, and I’m doing my best to make the most of them. If you’ve never tried them, do please give them a go – contrary to the common perception, they’re not sour, but as sweet and delicious as any ‘normal’ plum, if not more so.
To make the sorbet:
1 large punnet (approx. 2lbs) greengages
sugar to taste, approx. 4-5 tablespoons (remember that freezing will lessen the sweetness)
150-200 ml or so of water
a couple of sprigs of hyssop
a generous splosh of vodka
Put all the ingredients except for the vodka into a large pan, and cover with a lid. Place over a low to medium heat for as long as it takes for the fruit to soften fully and release its juices, probably 15-20 mins. Turn the heat off, and leave the pan contents to cool.
Pour the cooled greengages into a sieve, along with the liquid, over the container you intend to use for freezing the sorbet. Gently push the solid fruit with the back of the spoon to squeeze some extra juice through, but don’t go mad. What remains in the sieve is now a delicious compote to eat with yogurt.
To the greengage syrup in the container, add your vodka. By all means be generous, but go carefully – too much alcohol will mean that the sorbet won’t freeze so readily. Give everything a good stir, and put it in the freezer to set. If using an ice cream maker, follow the manufacturer’s instructions. If not, simply take the sorbet out of the freezer every half hour or so, and give the mixture another thorough stir, taking particular care to break down the larger crystals at the edge of the container. The more times you can be bothered to do this – and I happen to find it mildly therapeutic – the smoother your final sorbet will be.