Last week I picked some blackberries and mirabelle plums on the way back from grocery shopping, neither was really quite enough for a crumble and then as luck would have it I remembered a bottle of gin left over from Christmas and thought to make a hedgerow infused beverage inspired by some old “bachelor jam” style recipes……
I used about 800 g of fruit but I guess it depends on how much alcohol you’re using (I had about 600ml of gin)
I just loved the look of the fruit in the glass jar, all coated like sugar plums…..
Hedgerow Infused gin/vodka/brandy……
Hedgerow fruit such as blackberries, mirabelles, sloes
Alcohol such as vodka or gin or brandy
Glass jar with an air tight lid.
Sterilize the glass jar and pick over the fruit. Rinse and the fruit in cold water and carefully dry.
Add a handful of fruit in the jar and cover with a sprinkle of sugar. Repeat with the fruit and sugar alternating the fruits.
When you’ve used all your fruit and sugar cover with the alcohol of your choice and close the jar.
Give the jar a gentle swirl to begin mixing the contents.
Place in a dark cupboard and swirl the jar every day for a fortnight or so before leaving to infuse for at least 3 months.
The fruits can be left in the liquid for up to 6 months.
Strain the liquid and bottle.
Don’t throw the fruit away, if you’ve used blackberries and mirabelles then they can be added to apple for a heady and intoxicating winter crumble. (Sloes you’ll need to pick out as their stones are proper teeth breakers)
The walnuts from a week or so ago have finished their soak in a bath of brine, after rinsing them in cold water I’ll be quite honest and say they looked rather lacking in the beauty department, being a bit splotchy and khaki coloured….however I felt they improved somewhat after allowing them to air dry in the sun-shine for a couple of days (bringing them in at night away from goodness knows what lurks out there in the dark)…they turned an intense dark brown colour, not quite black but with a gorgeous depth and richness.
They’re now all sealed up in jars floating in spiced vinegar at the back of a not used very often cupboard ready to gift for Christmas…I’ve left a small jar for us to try as this was my first year in making them and rather than make lots of something I wasn’t sure about I thought it best to just try it out before I go ahead and poison all my friends and family….but if they turn out okay (testing in about 2 months time) then I’ll make a bigger batch next year as they’ve been quite cheap to make and I’m hoping they’ll taste nice with some sheep cheese from just up the road in Wymondham. (if your local cheese shop stocks Norfolk White Lady sheep cheese then treat yourself, it’s gorgeous, soft and delicate with a salad or in a sandwich, and then when it’s heated in a tart or under the grill the flavour develops and is stronger…absolutely delicious and pretty much on our doorstep.
Cider vinegar/white wine vinegar
Soft brown sugar
Cinnamon quill,black peppercorns, all spice, coriander seeds, fresh ginger
Sterilise the jars
Warm the vinegar with the brown sugar and spices, allow to simmer for 10 minutes.
After 10 minutes carefully add the walnuts and allow to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Spoon out the walnuts and put into the sterilized jars. Pour over the vinegar so the walnuts are covered. Seal closed and leave for at least 8 weeks before sampling.
I had about 500 g of walnuts after they’d been brined and dried, so used about a litre of white wine vinegar and 300g of brown sugar. But like most of the hedgerow recipes it’s all about using what you have, and adding a little more if you need it.
Some recipes I found used cider vinegar, some used white wine vinegar and a couple even used malt (which makes my eyes water just to read about)…but I used white wine as I often use that for my chutneys (and that’s what was in the cupboard), in a Sarah Raven recipe she mentions using brown sugar although I couldn’t see this used in any other ones that I have by Hugh Fearnely Whittingstall, Bob Flowerdew or Richard Mabley, however I think she’s wonderful and her recipes always turn out well when I’ve tried them (especially her meringues), so I used it but a little less than she suggested, she also used allspice and fresh ginger but I didn’t have either so instead used some pieces of dry ginger and a teaspoon of coriander seeds along with half a quill of cinnamon and 10 black peppercorns. The smell of the simmering vinegar and sugar was very heady, rich and delicious like the start of a chutney. Fingers crossed these turn out okay.
Lardering and putting away for the pantry is getting nicely under way with our hedgerow harvesting and foraging treasures. At least when so many of the ingredients are free it seems acceptable to be able to fiddle and tinker a little with the recipes. (though I’m thinking I may only want to try the walnuts with my eyes closed.)