This year the hedgerow harvest has passed me by: don’t know how, but it seems to me that the dry spring inhibited Rutland’s sloes and blackberries, which usually hang in profusion in every field and really slow down my dog walking activities. So, no new sloe gin or anything this year.
Instead, yesterday I carried out my final filtering of last year’s fruit liqueurs, and put the end result into vintage-style stoppered glass bottles, which look much better than the old wine bottles I’ve used in the past.
Tired with sloe gin, last year’s efforts were sloe brandy and blackberry vodka. The blackberry vodka started promisingly, turning the most beautiful purple colour, but I suspect that I left the fruit in too long and the final result is very dark indeed, more like a very old port. I also think I overdid the sugar, which is hard to ‘undo’. To add raw liquor at this stage seems wrong, so the blackberry vodka is very much a liqueur. Note to self and readers: it’s much easier to add extra sugar after the process, because it dissolves easily – so if in doubt, go easy on the sugar in the first instance.
The sloe brandy, on the other hand, is a great success. Much softer and rounder in flavour than the sloe gin of the year before. And a beautiful jewel-like colour, a lovely ruby red.
I don’t really drink them myself, apart from filling up my hip flask ‘for emergencies’ on long winter walks – but then I usually forget to take it with me! And while I instinctively reach for the wine bottle of an evening, it would seem a bit over the top to then have a liqueur as a night-cap. But it all disappears at Harvest festival (when my harvest gift of a half-litre is a welcome change from yet more apples!) and at the Carol Service, when it is twice as popular as the sherry that’s also on offer.