Blackberry and apple vodka recipe

…AKA a photo a day: August 19th…

Yesterday was all about jamming and chutneying. But even after making 10 jars of the blackberry and apple jam, we still had plenty left over.

With the rest of the blackberries, I decided to make a couple of bottles of fruit vodka.

Blackberry vodka
Oh this is a sight for sore eyes!

We have some seriously cheap, seriously nasty, seriously eye-watering bottles of vodka that have been sitting in our larder ever since my 30th birthday party nearly five years ago. I massively over-ordered on the booze, and for a while went through a phase of cooking everything in a vodka sauce (which is pretty tasty, actually) but somehow these two bottles had escaped that mania unscathed.

But they are much, much too vile to be drunk alone (I hasten to point out, for my birthday they were made into Moscow Mules, I didn’t just force all my friends to drink cheap and nasty vodka on its own) so the addition of some fruit is the perfect solution.

It’s a very simply recipe, based on sloe gin, but which can be adapted to vodka or pretty much any fruit as well.

Ingredients:

  • A litre bottle of gin or vodka, two thirds full
  • 200g of sugar
  • Approximately 300g of blackberries

What to do:

1. Pour the sugar into the bottle of vodka, using a funnel

2. Shake well (with the lid on, obviously) until the sugar is well dissolved

3. Stuff the fruit into the top until the bottle is completely full up. This was around 300g of blackberries in this case, but just keep on going until the bottle is full. Shake again.

4. Store in cool dark place. Check on it every few days or once a week for the first month or so and give it a good shake.

5. Leave it for at least three months before drinking. Ideally, you could leave it about two years for the flavours to really infuse the vodka. But, I should say, the very best sloe gin I ever drank was 21 years old.

blackberry vodka
It’s tempting to drink this straight away, it looks so utterly delicious, but one whiff of the cheap vodka inside put me off immediately… In a year, though, it’ll be a different story.

Other fruits:

You can use all sorts of other fruits (as well as substituting the vodka with gin, of course…) Keep the sugar / booze / fruit ratios the same, but any of these would work too:

  • Cherry vodka. I made some of this last year with the sparse crop from my new morello cherry tree. (18 cherries, if you’re wondering.) Cut the cherries in half and you can either leave the pip in or remove it. If you leave it in, it tastes a bit like almonds as well, which is actually very delicious. This definitely takes a while for the flavours to infuse though. We tested ours after eight months and it was quite unpleasant. Now, about 14 months later, it’s really good…
  • Sloe gin. This is the classic, of course. Prick the sloes all over before adding.  Sloes are ready to be harvested in Autumn time, so keep an eye out for them soon. The gin you make should be ready for drinking in time for Christmas, so this can be a perfect present.
  • Damson gin. Again, prick the damsons before adding to the gin.
  • Apple vodka. This was a new one for me, but I also made a bottle of it yesterday. I had some slightly unripe windfall apples in the garden, so I decided to try a bottle and see how it goes. If you’re still reading this blog in 18 months, I’ll give you the verdict! This is what they looked like before being mixed together:
apple vodka
I’ve got to say, I don’t think this looks hugely appealing right now. We’ll have to see whether it improves with age…

Tell me, do you have any other great fruit / booze combinations I should try?

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A photo a day: August 18th

Ah the overpowering scent of vinegar wafting through my house!

It’s everywhere: in my hair, my clothes, the freshly-washed laundry waiting to be folded… But it’s when you step into the kitchen that it really burns your eyes, bringing tears streaming down your cheeks.

Yes indeed, it’s my first pickling day of the year.

pumpkin chutney
Lovely vinegary, sugary pumpkins…

For some reason, I’d completely failed to eat two Abel & Cole pumpkins for so long that they were really past their best. So there was only one thing for it: pumpkin chutney.

I followed a recipe I found at the British Larder that adds some apples (for which I picked a few windfalls from our garden), raisins, plum tomatoes (I had none, so used a tin) and various delicious spices.

I’m a massive chutney lover and this looks like a good one. I’ll let you know how it tastes, when we crack open the first jar at the start of Winter…

Blackberry and apple jam
This is the jam down the barrel of the jar, so to speak…

Yesterday saw more preserving as well, with the blackberries we’d picked in the cemetery. I made up a batch of blackberry and apple jam, following a recipe from the Cottage Smallholder. I guess it’s somewhere between a jam and jelly, since it is sieved, like a jelly, to remove all the blackberry seeds, but, like jam, will be used on toast, not cold meats. The smell of this stuff was absolutely incredible, and I couldn’t resist opening a jar straight away, so I can report that it is really, really, really tasty.

blackberry and apple jam
Yeah, I like to keep my jams and chutneys out in the garden. Don’t you?

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the fate of the rest of the blackberries. Advance notice. It involves lots of booze…

Joining in with the August Break.

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A photo a day: August 17th

We went blackberry picking this morning in Camberwell Old Cemetery. The cemetery is a two minute walk from our house and worth a visit as about a third of it is fantastically overgrown, with winding little lanes overhung with trees and a huge amount of brambles.

camberwell old cemetery
Just the perfect spot for a walk with the pram. Ahem

There’s something really romantic about the old graves, just peeping out through the foliage. When I go, I’d like my grave to end up looking like this one:

grave and blackberries
I’d like the snail as well.

Before the blackberry picking in the overgrown lanes, we walked the upkept cement paths first, in an attempt to get the baby off to sleep. I read the inscriptions on the gravestones, noticing especially those who’d died young, or very old, or at the age I am now.

Gravestone
Then again, maybe I’d like a gravestone with a huge statue on…

It’s sobering and yet somehow wonderfully beautiful to see the remains of all those lives, boiled down to one little sentence on a gravestone. I always enjoy the ones that say “To my darling husband” or “To my much loved Mum”… There are huge achievements you could reach in life, of course, writing books, becoming famous, making crucial scientific discoveries. And yet I rather feel that to be remembered as someone’s “beloved mother” or “adored wife” is a pinnacle that can’t be topped.

After these introspective musings, baby well asleep, we set off into the undergrowth and were rewarded for our bravery. We foraged a good kilo of blackberries, returning home an hour later covered in scratches, a few bites and with our hands stained purple.

Weed seeds
I did my bit to help the spread of the local weed population

The plans for these little beauties are some blackberry and apple jam / jelly (it’s used like a jam, but sieved like a jelly) and either some blackberry and apple leather or something similar to that. I’ll show you some pictures tomorrow, if they end up looking appealing.

Trug of blackberries
It’s ridiculously hard to photograph the blackberries together with any definition. Why is that?

This post is a double whammy, joining in with the August break and also being part of my Making the most of London series.

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A photo a day: August 16th

A wedding reading

Poetry books
A year’s worth of reading here… (The Lowell is my favourite)

Many moons ago, I did an MA in Modern and Contemporary Poetry. (I know, it just sounds like one of those qualifications that absolutely leads to a job the minute you leave university, doesn’t it?)

Last night, I had all of these glorious books back out again, scouring them for the perfect second reading for our wedding.

We already have one poem planned and after a few joyful hours reacquainting myself with some of these poets, I couldn’t find a second poem that complements our first one and wasn’t either too sappy or too bleak.

But then, the books still strewn around the room, I found a perfect Darwin quote on an internet search.

Poetry books
They make the covers of poetry books nicer than the covers of normal books, don’t they?

My fiancé is an enthusiastic hobby naturalist, so an extract from Charles Darwin’s diaries is particularly apposite. Plus, who could resist this quote?

Deciding whether or not to propose to his cousin, Darwin drew up a list of pros and cons for marriage:

(Anyone reading this who is also coming to my wedding, please look away now!)

“This is the Question:

Marry

Children — (if it Please God) — Constant companion, (& friend in old age) who will feel interested in one, — object to be beloved & played with. — — better than a dog anyhow. —

Home, & someone to take care of house — Charms of music & female chit-chat. — These things good for one’s health. — but terrible loss of time. —

My God, it is intolerable to think of spending ones whole life, like a neuter bee, working, working, & nothing after all. — No, no won’t do. — Imagine living all one’s day solitarily in smoky dirty London House.—

Only picture to yourself a nice soft wife on a sofa with good fire, & books & music perhaps — Compare this vision with the dingy reality of Grt. Marlbro’ St.

Marry—Marry—Marry Q.E.D.,

Not Marry

Freedom to go where one liked— choice of Society  & little of it. — Conversation of clever men at clubs—

Not forced to visit relatives, & to bend in every trifle.— to have the expense & anxiety of children— perhaps quarelling—

Loss of time. — cannot read in the Evenings— fatness & idleness— Anxiety &
responsibility— less money for books &c— if many children forced to gain one’s bread.— (But then it is very bad for ones health to work too much)

Perhaps my wife wont like London; then the sentence is banishment & degradation into indolent, idle fool —”

The dog! The loss of time! The wish to read in the evenings! The banishment from London turning him into an indolent fool! This has to be the greatest wedding reading ever written…

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A photo a day: August 15th

Cucamelons and radishes
Cucamelons and a couple of radishes that were made into a delicious salad last night

For those who remember the sad story of the asparagus pea (I’ve heard talk of support groups being set up around the country to help gardeners deal with the crushing disappointment of an asparagus pea crop), I bring you cheerful news.

These amazing cucamelons, in the photo above, were started from seed at the same time and have been a huge success.

For a start, these weird little vegetables (fruits?) look gorgeous. As promised on the packet, they really do look like tiny little grape-sized watermelons. Secondly, and arguably more importantly, they also taste gorgeous. Mostly like cucumber, but with a definite suggestion of something a little sweeter and more fruity.

I also think they’re going to give a reasonable crop. I’ve got seven plants and I would guess that the amount you see in the bowl above is probably going to be a quarter, or even less, of the overall harvest.

And it’s worth mentioning how easy they’ve been to grow and how little care they’ve needed. They’ve cheerfully colonised the greenhouse and are growing cheek by jowl with the tomatoes, both plants seeming perfectly happy with the arrangement.

So anyone on the look out for some unusual veg to grow next year: I heartily recommend the mighty cucamelon.

Joining in with the August break, a photo a day for the whole of the month.

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A photo a day: August 14th

rhubarb syrup bottle
Gloriously pink

On holiday in Rye two weeks ago, we had supper one night at the Ship Inn.

Because we were on holiday, I treated myself to one of the delicious-sounding but outrageously expensive cocktails.*

After a long, serious study of the cocktail menu and a weighing up on the pros and cons of various appealing options, I settled for the rhubarb martini. And boy was I glad I did.

I absolutely love rhubarb, but had never before come across the genius idea of combining it with alcohol.

In a moment of pleasing synchronicity, a few days later I saw this rhubarb mojito recipe on the ever-wonderfully-written Decorator’s Notebook blog.

So, armed with some of the rhubarb that grows prolifically in my garden, I decided to make up some of the rhubarb syrup, so I could add it to gin, vodka or perhaps just some lemonade.

It’s the most fabulous colour, isn’t it? Here’s another picture of the whole bottle glinting away in the morning sunlight:

rhubarb cordial
The only difficulty will be rationing the bottle…

Joining in with the August Break.

*To be fair to the Ship Inn, it’s not that their cocktails are particularly expensive cocktails, rather that I can never quite get over spending £8 for one single drink, when I would never spend more than that on a whole bottle of wine from the supermarket.

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A photo a day: August 13th

Liberty quilt fabrics
Beautiful V&A fabrics

For my photo today, I thought it was time to introduce you to the famous quilt. Well, to its constituent parts anyway.

I think I’ve mentioned a few times before that I am working on (ahem, really, failing to work on) a quilt for my sister and her husband. It was to be their Christmas present last year. Except my old sewing machine broke a week before Christmas and I had barely even started sewing the pieces together.

Okay, no problem, I showed them what I had done, they loved it, and I thought it would take me a matter of weeks to finish.

Then I decided that it was too small. So I ordered more of the stunning V&A quilts fabric. (Sounds like a quick thing to do, doesn’t it? In fact, that part of the whole venture took me about four months…)

By this point, the old sewing machine had given up the ghost and I’d got a lovely spanking new sewing machine.

Should be easy from now on in. Except… I couldn’t for the life of me work out how to create the same seam allowance that I’d done on the old machine. (I’m slightly embarrassed to tell you this, but I’d decided that the perfect way to make the seam allowance I wanted on the old machine was to sew the whole thing with the needle aligned to the right. Which created a very unstandard seam allowance. Ah well, you sew, you learn.)

I’ve been pondering this problem now for, oooh, probably about another three months and have finally decided, what the heck, I’m not about to undo everything I’ve done and start again, so the new rows will just have to not fit perfectly with the old ones, and I’ll trim down the edges where I need to. I’m sure my sister would rather have imperfect quilt sometime before next Christmas, than a perfect one in a decade.

But since it just might take me a little while to get to the end result, in the meantime, I thought I’d just show you this picture of the beautiful fabrics I’m working with.

Related articles:

  • Take a look at my pictures for each day this month: August break photos
  • I gathered together a collection of tutorials for homemade Christmas presents last year, along with links to things that I actually did manage to make in time: homemade Christmas presents

A photo a day: August 12th

Sleeping duck
Zzzzzzzz

It was a slightly tiring weekend round here. My affianced was out on his stag on Saturday, so of course the sproglet decided Saturday night was a good time to have a two hour meltdown at midnight and we all entered Sunday a little weary. All of which is to say that today I rather feel like finding a nice spot in the sun and curling up with my eyes closed for a little bit of zzzzzzzz…

Joining in with the August Break.

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A photo a day: August 10th

I’m on a three month hiatus from my horticulture course for the summer holidays, but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped noticing all the different, fascinating scientific things I learnt about in the classroom when I see them around the garden.

One of the terms that was new to me in the course was a “dehiscent fruit.” Which, in brief, means a plant which creates seeds inside a pod and then opens the pod to expel them, in some way, onto the ground.

(The word “fruit” doesn’t have to refer to a fruit in the way we think of apples, pears, plums etc. In fact, confusingly, an apple and a pear are not even true horticultural fruits, but rather “false fruits” due to the part of the plant that has swelled to create the fruit…)

geranium seed pod
What’s going to happen to this little seed pod?

Thus it is that the innocuous looking little seed pod on my geranium, in the photo above, one night pulled up all its side into these amazing curls, of the photo below, and flung its seeds out into my flower bed.

dehisced geranium seed pod
The seeds all gone, the spent pod is rather spectacular looking

Next year, perhaps I can set an overnight video camera to catch it in action…

Joining in with the August Break.

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