Thursday, 23 June 2011

Quern Stone

Last year I was asked to carve a house name plaque for a Quern Cottage.  Quern was a word I knew, but didn't actually really know what it was.  After looking it up I was fascinated by the findings.  Quern stones are stone tools for hand grinding a wide variety of materials.  They were used in pairs.  The lower, stationary, stone is called a quern, whilst the upper, mobile, stone is called a handstone.  They were first used in the neolithic period to grind cereals into flour.  Research shows however that they were used for grinding almost anything, including medicines, alloys and even snuff.

The prized stone for making a quern-stone was igneous rock, which has a rough surface, but the particles do not break off easily which would cause whatever was being ground to be gritty, although examples in sandstone and gritstone have been found.

Quern-stone -  Bracken Hall Countryside Centre and Museum, Bailden

Anyway, what brought this to mind are all the elderberry flowers, just coming out fully in the hedgerows.  When I was researching the quern stone, I found a lovely recipe using the flour ground by a quern stone to make an elderflower and honey curd tart.

I'm no cook, but this was so delicious that I made a few, they got bigger each time!  Now I'm thinking I need to get back to baking - have you ever made this?  I think it is called Sambocade.

You make a pastry case, fill it with curds (I used cream cheese and cottage cheese together), mixed with honey and your elderflowers (pick just really sweet smelling ones, and scrape off the sprig with a fork), beaten egg and bake.  Wholesomely scrummy!

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