Gin Lane

Four gallons of best gin? Thats around 16 litres or 21 75cl bottles. Best gin will set you back from £25 to £40 a bottle (at least) so you’re looking at £840 worth of gin to make this recipe from the 1920’s. Phew! But don’t worry chaps, it is possible to satisfy your flavoured gin cravings on a budget!

Last year (the equivalent of) 1.12 BILLION G&T’s were consumed in Britain alone, and it’s worldwide popularity continues to rise. Small distilleries, craft gins and a wider choice of tonic waters have made “mother’s ruin” into the foodies drink of choice.

Part of the beauty of gin is the variety, even with juniper as the universal base flavour –  there are endless combinations of botanicals to experiment with. Gin is also easy to make, leading to hundreds of small craft distilleries opening in recent years. I love a gin with a good heady scent of angellica, such as Burleigh’s* www.burleighsgin.com 

*I am not paid to endorse Burleigh’s gin, though if they wanted to send a bottle or two my way I’m sure I might to moved to tell you just how good it really is…..please?

Flavoured Gin Liqueurs

Soft fruits work the best. As a general rule use 150g of sugar and 300g of fruit for each half litre of gin. Mix it all togther and leave for two weeks, stirring once a day for the first week. Strain through a seive or jelly bag into a bottle. I don’t know how long it will keep because we drink it up fairly fast! Please, please use a good tonic water such as Fever Tree or Fentimans, don’t spoil your efforts by filling up the glass with supermarket slimline tonic! Supermarket gin is fine for these recipes though.

Watch out for the upcoming recipe for Strawberry and Cucumber gin. Other successful flavours have been raspberry, aniseed and chocolate, yes chocolate! Made by steeping cocoa nibs in the gin, a little bottle of this would make your chocoholic friends very happy!

The phrase “Dutch Courage” is belived to have derived from the practice of soldiers during the Eighty Years War (1568-1648) drinking Genevre (the precursor of gin) to calm their nerves before battle.

 

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Hedgerow Tales

Wikipedia defines a hedgerow as “a line of closely spaced shrubs and tree species, planted and trained to form a barrier or to mark the boundary of an area.” In England many hedges are hundreds of years old and typically contain Hawthorn, Blackthorn, Hazel and over native trees. In time the original hedge becomes colonized with other shrubs such as Brambles, Elder, Bullace, Crab apple and Dog Rose. In some areas the “hedges” can be the last remnant of an old country estate or market garden where you can stumble on old varities of apple, plum and pear, greengages, currants and raspberries reverted to wild.

Everywhere you look you will find wild fruit of some sort, have a look around. There is a grassy area behind our estate which is great for elderberries, blackberries, bullace plums and hawthorn berries. The local disused railway line has apples, rosehips and raspberries and part of a nearby canal marina is a bonanza of sloes. Get to know your local area. Avoid fruit growing next to main roads and industrial sites as they are covered in pollutants, yuck!

But what to do with it all when you’ve picked it? Here is a link to a fantastic recipe for hedgerow jelly which I’ve been making for a few years: http://www.countryliving.co.uk/create/food-and-drink/hedgerow-jelly Inspired by the recipe, this year I’m having a go at hedgerow liquour.

Hedgerow Liquour

You will need a large kilner jar or similar that will hold at least a litre of liquid.

  • 250g sugar
  • 250ml white wine
  • 150g blackberries
  • 100g elderberries
  • a large handful of hawthorn berries or rosehips
  • a large handful of bullace plums or sloes
  • a 750ml bottle of vodka

Sterilize the jar. Wash the fruit. Gently heat the wine and sugar together until the sugar is dissolved.

Elderberries contain toxins which are destroyed by heat and hawthorn berries are quite hard, put these in the saucepan with the wine and bring to the boil. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 mins.

Prick the bullace plums all over with a skewer, put them in the jar with the blackberries. Pour the hot wine mixture into the jar as well. Top up the jar with as much vodka as it needs to reach the top.

Leave in the jar, shaking it every other day for a fortnight. Next (I haven’t got this far, mine is still mascerating) strain through muslin or a jelly bag into sterilized bottles. Leave to stand for a month so any remaining sediment can sink to the bottom. Strain again, this time through coffee filter paper, into fresh bottles. Enjoy neat, or with fizzy wine/tonicwater/whatever you fancy or maybe invent a new and exciting cocktail! I’ll update the post when mine is ready and let you know how it went.

First update: Just strained into bottles and my it’s delicious! Very sweet, very fruity with a tannin kick from the elderberries. Looking forward to seeing how it matures.