“The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip’s ear.”
Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare
The verse above refers to the benefits (not proven) of the cowslip for the skin – it was said an infusion in oil would remove freckles and reduce wrinkles.
Cowslips also have a calming, soporific effect – especially when combined with alcohol. This recipe is based on a number of old recipes, including one given by Mrs Beeton, which all involved making gallons of the stuff, but the volume is reduced to make the whole business a bit more manageable.
Recipe for making cowslip wine
- 9 litres/8 cups of water
- 8 cups of cowslip heads – the yellow crowns of petals only – no stalk or calyx
- 600g/1 lb 5 oz of sugar
- Juice and zest of a lime
- 2 tbsp orange juice
- 1 tbsp brewers’ yeast
- 240 ml/1 cup brandy
- Put the sugar and water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil – simmer for half an hour skimming off any scum which rises to the top
- Leave to cool, pour into a non-metalic container – ideally a big jug from which you can easily pour. Add the fruit juices and zest
- Add the flower petals and mix in. Add the brewers’ yeast, cover with a tea towel and leave to ferment for three or four days.
- Mix in the brandy.
- strain through a coffee filter – the liquid should be a clear, light yellow colour
- Pour into sterilised (go here for how to sterilise) glass jars or bottles and leave to mature for a couple of months before drinking.
You may also be interested in how to make damson gin – follow this link.