Make your own Fruit Gins

When I was growing up my garden had such a wealth of fruit produce which I later missed. We used to have a morello cherry tree (which I was originally more interested in climbing) which my dad made a huge net to keep the birds out and sometimes we would make Cherry Vodka (something which actually my grandma used to do also). The last batch from this tree was in 2002 and since then I’ve used jarred cherries. Once I made blackberry vodka (freshly picked) but I didn’t put sugar in and it was a little too vodkary.

Personally I much prefer Gin. In the last couple of years the Gentleman of the House and myself have made Plum Gin. I started doing this once when plums were on 2 for 1 a punnet and thought hey why not and found a river cottage recipe on the internet (which I now can’t find) to give me the proportions of fruit/alcohol/sugar.

I was in London a few months and on one of the veg stalls I saw greengages! I once had greengage jam in a tequila cocktail which was amazing an i thought oooh i wonder what greengage gin is like. I wasn’t able to buy the fruit then but got some from my greengrocers (love them!) last week. I also bought damsons. Finally I bought some rhubarb a few weeks ago to make a cake but never got round to it so I think I’m just going to bob it in some gin and see what happens (waste not)

Getting the fruit/alcohol/sugar ratio is critical to the flavour and with practice you can tailor this to your preference depending on what your preference to sweetness is. Im using the ratio from the Damson recipe in  River Cottage Handbookno.2: Preserves. What is interesting is that the sloe gin recipe uses the same weight of sugar as sloes but with damsons its only half. Ive decided to use the half ratio for the greengages so that its not too sweet. (more can always be added later if needed)

Damson Gin

  • 500g damsons (pricked or halved)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 600ml gin

Greengage Gin

  • 500g greengages (pricked or halved)
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 600ml gin

Rhubarb Gin – This i just adapted the recipe to however much gin and rhubarb I had left

  • 200g rhubarb
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 300ml gin

Make sure you use jars which seal properly. Give the jar a shake then store in a dark cupboard for around 6 months giving an occasional shake. You can leave them longer or shorter but it will alter the intensity of the flavour.

Once the Gin is ready empty the jars through a sieve and store in bottles (make sure they’ve been washed well or sterilised first)

Then drink and enjoy!

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Winter Knits

You know the ones I mean, its the christmas jumpers, usually argyle ones with snowflakes and things around the top. For a few years i’d been wanting one of these and last autumn I found the fox cardigan. Last week I saw a jumper in a shop window. It was brown and white with two reindeer and pine trees. I had to have it. There was a bit of a worry when it vanished from the window (the Yellow Shop on Walcott St, Bath sells second hand/vintage clothing so it was likely to be a one off) but there it was on Saturday… and another one two. I really couldn’t decide which was nicer and in the end thought hey ho, together they cost the same as the fox cardigan so why not, I mean they are the nicest I’ve ever seen in a shop. Im wearing the light brown one as I type this. Its so cozy and they are both going to become a prominent fixture in my wardrobe this autumn/winter. Whats nice is its not a christmas jumper, its a winter forest jumper.

p.s. if you do ant a christmas jumper they have a whole rail of them at the back of the shop but as the shop assistant said, they’re gonna go by december.

Caraway and orange seed cake

Last November I was reading the Guardian saturday supplement and came across the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Carroway recipes (I do love this column, you get all sort of interesting info and history as well as the recipes). Caraway is not a flavour i am particularly familiar with and along with dill reminds me of Eastern European Cooking. However I thought that the cake listed would be something really interesting to try. Its taken almost a year to get round to this but here it is – copied from the above the link

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This simple cake is great with a cup of tea. It keeps well for a few days in an airtight tin – if anything, it tastes even better. Makes one 22cm cake.

250g butter, softened, plus a little more for buttering the tin
350g self-raising flour
½ tsp ground mace
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch of salt
250g caster sugar
4 eggs
30g caraway seeds
Finely grated zest of 1 orange
80g candied orange peel
4 tbsp milk 
4 tbsp brandy
2 tbsp demerara sugar

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Lightly grease a 22cm spring-form cake tin, line with baking parchment and butter the parchment.

Into a bowl, sift the flour, mace, nutmeg and salt. In another bowl, cream the butter and caster sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in the caraway, orange zest and candied peel. Fold in the flour until just combined, then stir in the milk and brandy. Spoon into the tin and smooth with a spatula. Sprinkle the demerara evenly over the top and bake for 45 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Leave in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out on to a rack to cool completely.

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I made one change to the recipe in that I only had 16g of caraway but the taste turned our pretty intense anyway. Unfortunately there was a pocket of uncooked cake just off centre and when i inserted a knife to check it was cooked i missed it so after the cake cooled I just scooped it out.

The flavour of the cake is interesting, don’t get me wrong its nice, but totally not what you expect from a cake. Its almost the opposite of a sweet bread since sweetness (what you expect from a cake) is much lower down on the list of flavours (if that makes any sense). Its an afternoon cake for enjoying with a cup of tea.

Winter Spiced Tequila

This year i’m making a variation on Nigella’s Winter Spiced Vodka and using Gold Tequila (mainly because its not going to get drunk otherwise). This is really nice as a winter warmer on cold dark evenings when you’re snuggled with blankets by candlelight.

The recipe calls for 500ml of vodka but I tend to use 350ml since they come all ready in a nice little bottle which you can just open and pop in the spices. They’re also really useful to reuse for these small batch drinks (here i’m using an old gin bottle)

  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
  • half teaspoon whole cardamon seeds
  • 3 bruised cardamon pods
  • 1 cinnamon stick (not too big or it will overpower the flavour)
  • 1 dried red chilli

Leave for at least a month in a dark cupboard, but leave the spices in until you reach the desired flavour (I wouldn’t leave in for more than 6 months though or it gets really intense). Im really looking forward to this since I’m quite partial to silver tequila with a drop of tabasco.

Recipe is from Nigella Christmas