September is the time of year to get out and investigate the hedgerows. There are all sorts of fruits and berries waiting to be picked by eager hands: sloes, rosehips, blackberries, damsons and apples can all be found with a little searching and bravery. I say bravery because foraging is always fraught with a small amount of danger, for instance, a wasp can easily be inhaled if you become distracted by a particularly juicy apple.
Foraging for food is immensely enjoyable not least because you’re getting something for nothing. It allows you to connect with the land and fully appreciate where the food has come from giving you an excuse to be a bona fide Ray Mears. If you do go out to scrounge the shrubbery make sure you’re meant to be there and haven’t inadvertently strutted into someone’s garden and started handling their hydrangeas. It goes (almost) without saying to be careful that what you are picking is indeed what you intended to pick and you haven’t confused your rosehips and laurels.
If a day outside avoiding thorns, stinging nettles and falling down ditches doesn’t appeal to you then farmers’ markets and greengrocers may be able to provide some or all of your berry needs. They also make an excellent hunting ground for more unusual apple and pear varieties.
Making your own infused gin is always great fun; first there’s the mixing, then there’s the waiting and finally there’s the tasting. Then there’s always the great debate; what do I do with the leftover gin soaked fruit? Last year I came up with a few good ways to use up the excess and have other plans this year too. I decided to make damson gin this year rather than sloe gin as the sloes are a bit thin on the ground and I’ve not tried it with damsons before.
You will need:
1 litre gin
Roughly a 2 litre receptacle
You need to ensure that the damsons and gin can mix together effectively over time. You can achieve this either by putting the damsons in to the freezer so that the skins crack or you can prick each damson a few times with a pin. I chose the latter option this year and found it to be extremely satisfying taking a far shorter time than I envisaged.
Clean out your chosen container; old bottles, Tupperware, Kilner jar or Rumtopf and put the sugar in the bottom.
Add your frozen fruit or prick with a pin as you add each one then pour in the gin. Give it a shake to mix the sugar in and then agitate it every day until all the sugar had dissolved.
Then just agitate it every so often leaving it for at least three months.
After three months it is worth giving it a taste to see how it’s getting on. If it’s how you like it, drain the gin off and get your thinking cap on. You can always just add more fresh gin to make another batch if you’re not feeling creative on draining day. This year not only do I have a new flavour of gin to look forward to but I also have new recipes to think of and create when the gin has gone. What better way to spend a January day than with booze soaked fruit and probably some pastry.