“Margaret, Becky, and Susan went off to the fields to pick cowslips, for the time had come to make cowslip wine. It was a cowslip day, too, a day of scents and pale gold colours, of glittering budded trees and little winds which clasped their skirts and tickled their ankles.”
Alison Uttley, The Country Child
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.
“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