Candied angelica

Angelica grows in profusion across North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist. First, rosettes of dark green leaves appear, and then from the centre, around the end of June, great fists of flower buds start fighting their way up above the grass, and then in July, domed panicles of white flowers come out. It is related to Alexanders, and you can candy their stems as well. Other endemic plants in the family, not all edible, include hogweed, and wild carrot, sweet cicely and wild parsnip. 

It is Angelica sylvestris that grows wild here, but there are cultivated varieties with a pinkish tinge, and also Angelica archangelica, a much larger cousin. You can read more about the botanical aspects on the Botanical Society of Scotland blog.  

This year, I decided I would work out how to make candied angelica. We used to get it in tiny squares and slivers, decorating cup cakes, and it is used as a flavouring in gin. First of all, at the very start of July, when the buds were beginning to burst upwards, I cut the stems while they were still tender. I blanched them, filling the kitchen with the most peculiar aroma. I left them in the boiling water for ten minutes and left them to cool. I reserved the poaching liquid. Once the stems were cool enough to handle, I peeled the outer layer off with a small sharp knife. 

At this stage, you could chop finely and add to rhubarb jam, about 50g per kilo of rhubarb.

To make candied angelica. I weighed the peeled angelica, and then added an equal amount of sugar to the poaching water. The ideal proportions would be for each 50g of stem, add 25g sugar, 25g glucose and 75ml water, but we can’t get glucose and I didn’t worry too much about weighing anything. I boiled the sugar and poaching water to a syrup and then added the angelica, and left it to cool. The next day, I removed the angelica, brought the syrup to a boil and then added the angelica again as it cooled. I repeated this every day until the syrup was the consistency of honey. I left the angelica in the syrup for a week at this point, then removed it and let it dry before storing in a sealed jar.

This is definitely more useful as a flavouring than as a sweet snack, the taste is completely unique, slightly bitter, and very herbal. The best thing I did with it was to add it to rhubarb jam after blanching it. It adds a hint of gin to the jam. 

 

 

Rhubarb and angelica jam

Angelica is an interesting herb. It is one of the key ingredients in gin, fixing and stabilising the other flavours. It grows wild in Uist, and just about now, at the start of July, the flower stems are emerging. It is a biennial plant, growing in the first year, and flowering in the second year before dying. The flower stem itself is the best bit for preserving, which will affect seed production for the following year, so harvest wisely. 

For this recipe, use 50g chopped candied angelica for each kilo of rhubarb. It makes a rhubarb jam flavoured with a hint of gin. 

I think that adding the angelica and lemon juice at the start allows the angelica flavour to disperse well into the other ingredients. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1kg rhubarb
  • 50g angelica, chopped
  • juice of two lemons
  • 1kg sugar

METHOD:

  • Chop the rhubarb into 1cm lengths, and finely chop the angelica, and put into the jam pan with the lemon juice, and covered in sugar. Stir well and leave overnight
  • The next day, bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes, until thick. Pour into prepared jars.