Category Archives: drinks

Cherry brandy – the verdict

Cherry brandy

I can reveal that the cherry brandy I made in the summer is delicious and dangerously moreish. We really enjoyed the odd tipple over Christmas. Let’s hope for a good cherry season next year.

The drained cherries are not going to waste either. Some of them became truffles, some were simply dipped in melted chocolate and the rest are in the freezer waiting to be added to pavlovas and black forest gateau type desserts throughout the year.

 

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Cherry brandy

Cherry brandy on day one

Cherry brandy on day one

Cherry brandy has always been one of my favourite tipples. I remember it being in the drinks cabinet when I was young and enjoying the sweet smell of it in my mum’s glass. It’s probably very 1970’s to admit to such a thing.

I have made damson gin or vodka lots of times thanks to our tree but I didn’t think I would get the chance to make my own cherry brandy. But the delivery of a crate of cherries from our friend made it a very tempting possibility.

It’s very easy, but you do need a large jar with a well-fitting lid, so that you don’t have a disaster when it comes to the shaking of the jar bit.

One of my favourite uses of cherry brandy now is to add a good slug to our regular cup of hot chocolate in the evening. Now there’s a sign of our age and present mentality.

I used a litre of brandy because I had so many cherries to get through, but you can half the quantities for a 50cl bottle. I used light coloured cherries so if you use dark cherries the colour of the resulting brandy will be deeper.

1 kg cherries
1 litre brandy (I used the cheapest bottle on the shelf)
300g sugar

Method

Find a jar that has a tight-fitting lid that is large enough to take the cherries and the liquid.

Prick the cherries several times and place into the jar. If you prick them over the jar you capture most of the juice, although it is a very good idea to wear old clothes and an apron. My formerly white ceiling bears testament to how far cherry juice can travel. Add the sugar and the brandy. Fit the lid, I then sellotape it to make extra sure of a tight fit. Give the jar a good shake. Place the jar somewhere where you will see it daily to remind you to shake every day for the next week. After that shake once a week for the next two months, tasting it occasionally to see if it is cherry enough for you. Once it is, strain back into sterile bottles. You can now drink it or if you can bear it leave it for 12 months to mature.  I plan to use the cherries in a chocolate dessert. It would be a shame to waste them.

Cherry brandy after 3 weeks

Cherry brandy after 3 weeks

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Elderflower cordial

My oh my, it’s been such a long time since I posted last.  Sorry, sorry.  Choclette has even asked me if I have disappeared into another ash cloud. It is starting to feel that way.  I have a list of jobs as long as my arm ( and someone else’s) and it seems if I dare to turn my back more weeds have grown to monstrous proportions in the garden.  Oh well, mustn’t complain as there are some good things growing there too. I am hoping to harvest a few broad beans tonight for the first time, and we are on our last root of Charlotte potatoes from the polytunnel, just in time for those in the garden to be ready.  The first strawberry is turning a crimson shade today in the old sink, ready for the girls to pick tonight. The girls have been disappearing  for about twenty minutes every night just before bed to emerge smeared with redcurrants.  The onions and garlic are nearly there too and we have been enjoying them the last couple of weeks.

My mum, who of course has a garden in which there is not a weed in sight, gave me some wonderful beetroot this week which I roasted and enjoyed very much indeed. Even Mr OC who has for years had a fear of the beetroot (something to do with pickled beets and the way they bleed into everything on your plate) had one and said it was ‘alright’!

One of the best things about this time of year though is the hedgerow and the wonders that can be found in it.  We are very lucky to have some really good elderflower trees nearby, which are well away from the road and which, this year, are brimming with flowers.  So, on Sunday evening, with the sun still shining I went off with my scissors and bowl and cut about 30 heads of elderflower.  The smell of these flowers is so beautifully sweet and delicious and really is the essence of summer. When I poured the just boiled water over, the smell permeated the whole house all evening, making it worthwhile making this cordial simply for that reason.

However, there is another very good reason for making this cordial and that is that it is really delicious and thirst quenching on a hot day, or even a cloudy and showery day like today.  I also intend to have a go at making an ice cream or a sorbet with it.  Should you be planning a summer barbecue, then make some quick as it makes a really good drink for those who wish to forgo the alcohol.

I have taken the recipe from The River Cottage Cookbook (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, 2001, HarperCollins, ISBN: 0 00220204 2) in which Hugh advises that if you want to keep this for more than a few weeks in the fridge then you should add a heaped teaspoon of tartaric acid for every 500ml of strained juice. It should then last for a year.  I haven’t added any to mine as I don’t expect it to hang around that long.  Don’t forget that the cordial needs to be diluted by at least one part cordial to five parts water before you enjoy it.   I am going on the hunt for a recipe for blackcurrant cordial next.

Make sure you are careful when you pick the elderflowers as you don’t want to lose the precious pollen in each of the tiny flowers.  Give them a very gentle shake to get rid of insects and then start the recipe as quickly as you can once they are picked.

20-30 heads of elderflower
zest of 2 lemons
zest of 1 orange
350g sugar for every 500ml of strained juice
50ml lemon juice for every 500ml of strained juice

Method

Place the heads of elderflower in a large bowl and grate over the zest of the 2 lemons and 1 orange.  Pour enough just-boiled water over the elderflowers to cover them completely. Cover with a cloth and leave overnight.  The next day strain through a muslin or a clean tea towel and measure the amount of strained juice you have.  Then pour into a large pan.  For every 500ml of strained juice add 350g of sugar and 50ml of lemon juice and heat over a gentle heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has completely dissolved.  Bring up to a gentle simmer and spoon off any scum that rises to the surface.  Leave to go cold, then strain it through a muslin or tea towel again and then decant into clean bottles.  Store in the fridge and then dilute by at least one part cordial to five parts cold water.  Add ice and enjoy.

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Damson Vodka or Gin

Preparing the damsons

Preparing the damsons

This is a great way to use up a glut of damsons, it transforms the gin or vodka into a heavenly tipple, capturing the essence of the damson.  Be warned though it is very easy to drink and very alcoholic!

For every 1 pint (570ml) damsons use 6oz (175g) sugar
gin or vodka

You will need a large screw top jar, we use the old fashioned sweet jars but you could use a large kilner jar too.

Prick the damsons with a fork or skewer and place in the jar.  It’s best to fill the jar with damsons for maximum flavour. You will need to measure them as they go in because for every pint (570ml)of damsons that you use you need to add 60z (175g) of sugar.  Fill the jar with either gin or vodka. You will need to shake the damsons gently to help the liquid seep to the bottom. Tightly fit the lid.  You now need to shake the jar daily until all of the sugar has dissolved (this can take two weeks of daily shaking). Put the jar in a dark place for six months and then decant into bottles.

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