Well, actually, that should read: ruff. But how else does one get traffic to the site? (Hmm, even 'traffic', when translated into German, can have sexual undertones, if one is so inclined..., but I digress...).
On the last day of April, a Pagan festival known as Walpurgisnacht, is still traditionally celebrated all over Germany, as Tanz in den Mai, and with the month of May comes Maibowle. May Wine or May Punch contains a magic ingredient, a herb called woodruff, or to give it its German name: Waldmeister - Master of the Woods.
I have woodruff flavoured jelly powder and even woodruff flavoured syrup, but the traditional mix for Maibowle would be 2 litres of dry white wine to 1 litre of sparkling wine (or mineral water), with the bunch of previously dried or frozen Waldmeister suspended into the liquid so that the stems don't touch the wine. On Wikipedia, under the heading May Wine, it is said that the plant is slightly poisonous, so caution is advised - no more than 5 plants per litre of punch. Which is all very well, if only I had ANY, but alas woodruff doesn't seem to be native to Britain.
So I checked out the German recipes online, to find out whether anyone has tried using the syrup. And lo and behold, they have! What can I tell you? I saw the most curious recipes.
750 ml lemonade (woodruff flavour)
1 bottle of sparkling wine
1 bottle of white wine
1/2 bottle of Schnaps (wheat)
3 l of white wine
1/2 l of red wine
125 g honey
2 slices of lemon
1 bottle of sparkling wine
250ml of vodka
800ml mineral water
200ml woodruff syrup
600 g stawberries
And another one, admittedly called East Prussian May Punch, does not contain any woodruff, but red wine, sparkling wine, dark beer and arrak! Which reminded me of the Altbierbowle which was popular in Germany in the early 80s. Now that I've brought my parents' big punch bowl upstairs from the cellar, I think I'll do that for the next book party at my house... But I'm digressing again.
I ended up with a mixture of the above: 200 ml of the syrup, topped up to 800ml with mineral water, 1 bottle of white wine, 1 bottle of cava, a few strawberries, 2 slices of lemon, some mint, and then I made the fatal mistake of adding a bit of rum. I don't think it needs any spirit - but if one feels there should be some, then it is definitely advisable to use a clear one with little own flavour!
It certainly does work with the syrup - in fact, just the syrup and wine and mineral water would make it very similar to the one you can buy ready made in bottles, in Germany that is. So, no good at all here, and I haven't seen any syrup here either. Sometimes Lidl sell the jelly powder, and I must give it a go - I'll report back.
Ideally, I'd grow my own woodruff. I know that some people have done it, and use it in interesting recipes, such as woodruff flavoured panna cotta with a strawberry jus. Sounds and looks divine.
Apparently, strawberries marinated in woodruff until they turn into clear red juice make a fantastic dessert soup - probably a strange concept on this green little island. Kaltschale is not that unusual as a pudding in Germany, nor would it be in Scandinavia or Holland, I daresay. I can't talk for the French, but I do know that they call woodruff "aspérule odorante" or "reine des bois", Queen of the Wood. Whereas the Dutch refer to the haybed of Maria: 'Onze Lieve Vrouwe Bedstro'.(I do not recall where I found these bits of information...sorry).