sloegandt

Andrea Frost's Fruity-Boozy Blog

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Spiced Quince Gin & “Leftover” Quince Tea

Whilst being a Spring baby, I really love Autumn, not least for the bounty available in the trees and hedgerows. The smells of the first fires mean that it’s not long until quince-time! I loathe synthetic air “fresheners” and start sneezing within a couple of feet of those awful plug in things. Shove a couple of fuzzy, aromatic quince in a bowl to ripen and all is well in the SloeGandT house! Inedible raw, and hard work (you need a jolly sharp knife and to be super-organised as they discolour quickly) the quince takes on a magical transformation cooked with a little sugar. If you are unsure of trying quince for the first time in something as expensive as a bottle of gin, try slicing one into an apple crumble for a pudding pep-up!

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Quince liqueur is an especial treat for me. It’s never ended up as anyone’s Christmas present but mine!! I made a little quince vodka and whisky last year, which were OK, but I made them in a rush: never a good idea with quince. I’m not sure whether my “only OK” was the base spirit or my even more slapdash than usual approach. This year, I’ve gone back to my tried and tested recipe: spiced quince gin. The aroma of quince, cloves and cinnamon is enough of a festive kick-start to then turn my eye towards pimping up mincemeat and start a few verses of Rudolph…

There is a lot of potential wastage with quince. They are rock hard and it can be quite difficult to trim down as much of the fruit from the core. If you are not lucky enough to have access to a tree, bought quince can appear expensive if only about half of their weight is used. The “quince tea” recipe uses up the leftovers. Apparently the emollient property of quince pips makes them very good for a sore throat. Although I am more of a fan of evidence-based medicine I’m prepared to let this slide as the end product tastes so lovely!

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Spiced Quince Gin

For every 750ml Gin add
500g grated quince
200g sugar
6 cloves
2.5cm knob ginger; sliced
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 vanilla pod
Large Kilner-style jar

Defuzz, peel and core quince: drop into acidulated water until ready to grate as the quince browns very quickly. It’s also worth spraying the food processor or grater with a spray of lemon if you are doing a bigger batch.
Add this and all other ingredients in the jar.
Shake daily for a couple of days until the sugar is dissolved.
Store in a cool dark place for a minimum of 3 months.
Strain through a muslin-lined sieve, and bottle

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Quince-Pip Tea

To the leftovers of 4 large quince add
1L water
Honey to taste for a warm sweet tea
Whisky to taste for an extra kick!

Boil up the skin, core and other leftovers of the quince. (This year, I also added the ginger root skin leftover from the gin making)
Simmer until the liquid is reduced by approximately half & the liquid is slightly syrupy
Cool, strain and bottle
Keeps in the fridge for about six months
Serve warm with honey to taste.
Add whisky for an alternative to a traditional hot toddy

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I recommend the whisky addition, however I missed “Stoptober” this year, so am having a booze-free “No-vember” instead. Roll on December!!

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Wild plum brandy

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A beautiful herald to the ending of summer, wild plums are a multicoloured treat to look at and eat. Wild plums are myriad dots in the trees, varying from yellow, to red and purple. I am lucky enough to live in a village with a “plum lane” footpath, yet still have to be very quick off the mark. A few locals, some considerably taller than myself, patrol the footpaths from mid-August, waiting for picking time.

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Luckily, last year was a glut: crumble and fruit salads adorned. Unsurprisingly, I plonked the rest in booze and opted for a traditional combination of plum and brandy. As usual, I chose an average base; not a rubbish one, not a posh one.

Wild Plum Brandy:
For every 1Kg Wild plums
500g Sugar (less if the plums are very sweet)
1L Brandy
Large kilner-style jar
Shake daily to dissolve sugar then leave somewhere dark for a minimum of 3 months before straining and bottling

The plums were then left for 9 months as I was back at Uni and far too busy to worry about it: stoned fruity booze can take a bit of neglect. The end result was a beautiful dark caramel colour fluid which was absolutely crystal clear even before straining through muslin. Scuba divers use the saying “gin clear” to describe a good visibility dive, so I sent my trusty companion in to check if “brandy-clear” was an acceptable alternative…

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The liqueur had a really plummy taste with a candy background which I think was due to the stone and the length of time the plums were left steeping. Sloes and damsons can taste almondy with the stone left in. It even managed a “place” in the village produce competition! The Brandy was rapidly demolished by family so I have already picked enough plums to make double the amount this year.

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Some of the boozy plums were used as a dessert & added to icecream. The rest were added to red wine to try a plum port:

Wild Plum Port
For every 1Kg drained plums
100g sugar
1 bottle red wine
200ml brandy to be added after 3 months

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Elderflower and Lemon Cordial

This post is slightly late in the season due to my need to take exams rather than go outside and play! The elderflower season this year was definitely worth the wait. It was a good 4 weeks late but the result was a huge harvest with a good gooseberry overlap and plenty of berries left in situ to make shrubs and sauces later in the year. There are still elderflower heads around in the shadier sections of Oxfordshire footpaths although not for much longer. The flowers dry well (lay on paper in the sunshine or an airing cupboard) and keep their scent beautifully.

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As my picking/bug shaking assistants this year were both under 4 years of age I selflessly decided to opt for non-alcoholic elderflower options. Elderflower sugar is always a winner sprinkled onto biscuits or used to cook gooseberries for fools etc. Cordial making, however, involves quite a lot of boiling water splashing about: something I wanted to avoid whilst still trying to engage my little helpers. Looking towards a safer recipe to use with preschoolers, I opted to try a cool infusion.

It is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain citric acid this year due to its’ alternative use to bulk up illegal chemical stimulants etc. I obviously looked like I was really going to cook with it, as managed to “score” two boxes from the pharmacist! I now feel quite old and dull… As the infusing time was to be longer and mainly because the ingredients I had to hand leant themselves to the quantities below, this recipe uses more elderflower heads and less sugar than traditional cordial recipes.

Elderflower Sugar

300ml jar Kilner style or good screw-top
4 heads fresh or dried elderflowers

Shake flower heads to remove any hiding bugs.
Fork off flowers and add to sugar. Dried heads can be added whole.
Leave for 5 days. Sieve and discard flowers.

Elderflower and Lemon cordial

30 heads Elderflowers
900g Sugar
4x Unwaxed lemons (or combination of oranges and lemons to taste), zested and very coarsely sliced
1x heaped tsp citric acid
1.5L Freshly boiled and cooling water (lukewarm “blood” temperature will dissolve sugar and be safe for little assistants)

In a large bowl, stir the sugar into lukewarm water to dissolve and set aside to cool.
Add lemon zest and thickly cut lemons to sugar water
Add citric acid
Shake the elderflower heads to de-bug and add to water
Cover with a plate to keep flower heads in the liquid (elderflower oxidises easily)
Cover bowl with cling film and leave for 48hours
Strain and bottle

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This keeps for a good 6 weeks in the fridge.
Elderflower cordial is sublime added to a G&T or simply mixed with sparkling water. Add to gooseberries or fruit fools or dilute and freeze to make lovely ice lollies or cubes.

Overall, I preferred the tang and the bung-it-all-in ease to a cold water cordial and will definitely use this recipe and method again. I even, on a whim, entered a bottle into the village flower and produce show and scored a Third prize for my efforts!

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Rumtopf

The hottest days of the year so far and my thoughts have focused on Christmas past and future. I received a Rumtopf jar from Santa (I was a good girl last year) and now need to do something with it. Rumtopf is a labour of love: very simple and exciting initially but once started, requires commitment and regular investment to reap the rewards.

Rumtopf is, unsurprisingly, translated from the German as Rum Jar. At its simplest, Rumtopf making is the placement of any fruit gluts from the garden, into rum & sugar. This is topped up and quantities amended as the year and harvest progresses. Pineapple, traditional if not exactly seasonal, completes the fruit additions in November. The Rumtopf is then ignored in favour of other festive cooking frenzies until everything is ready to be consumed in December.

I anticipate adding:
Strawberries
Blueberries
Cherries
Plums: garden & wild
Pears or Quince, harvest depending

And supplementing this haul with:
Grapes
Apricots
Pineapple

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A Rumtopf recipe is not an exact science: I tend to use a ratio of 4 parts fruit to 1 part sugar and a good glug of rum to cover. Main or favourite fruits can be approx 300-500g; half that for supplemental or bought. Aim for bite-size pieces of fruit. De-stone fruits such as cherries and apricots. Don’t bother peeling anything as the booze will soften any skins. Keep small fruits like blueberries whole but pierce skin to allow the rum to penetrate.

The rum needs to be a minimum of 40% (80 proof) to preserve the fruit. Purists recommend 54%, however I’ve always used 40% with other fruity boozy combinations with plenty of success. I’m lucky as I have quite a well stocked up rum cupboard, having an uncle visiting regularly from the Philippines!!!

The fruit will float and can be weighed down with a saucer if the pot is big enough. Cover the pot with clingfilm if the lid isn’t airtight and leave somewhere cool and dark.

Remember to top it up regularly with whatever takes your fancy. I wouldn’t use damsons or sloes as I tend to plonk these in gin or vodka. Blackberries work taste-wise but stain the rum and other fruit.

Rumtopf makes for a fabulous antidote to festive stodgy puddings, served simply with ice cream or crime fraiche. It can also be spooned into small jars for pretty presents.

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Traffic light ice lollies

The recent and very welcome heat wave has given me the challenge of trying to get some extra fluids into my children. They are pretty good at drinking milk and water but I have had to be creative without resorting to gallons of squash & additives.

A trip to the summer fete and a “Refresher” ice lolly purchase got me thinking about providing something more enticing and brighter than the largely white lemon verbena or elderflower lollies that are usually hidden in the freezer these days. We have a glut of homegrown strawberries which has resulted in family members other than the kids actually getting some fruit this year. Some were siphoned off for a very child-unfriendly Rumtopf; the rest got nabbed for lolly trials. Once pureed, the thick strawberry sauce may have been too intense on its own but it made a good base for layering and lollies made solely of the other fruits would have proved too expensive. The different consistencies of the fruit used, even after adding water, made layering in one go possible. If different fruit is used, the lollies may need to be part-frozen for 30mins before each layer is added.

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Traffic light lollies:
Strawberries
Mango
Kiwi
(Any old fruit you have spare will do)

Use 3 parts fruit to 1 part water

Freeze in lolly moulds

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These provide a good energy burst for little appetites. I froze spare fruit puree in ice cubes and have used it to swirl through other puds such as Eton Mess.

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Lemon Verbena Syrup

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Lemon verbena is one of my top five favourite flavours (gooseberry, elderflower, apricot and cherries being the non-alcoholic others). It is a summer favourite in the house: the kids love lemon verbena ice lollies, although my three year-old always raises eyebrows when asking for lemon vinegar lollies!!

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Lemon verbena syrup is fantastic in ice creams and puddings. It peps up a Gin and Tonic or summer fruit cup nicely; simply add ice and a log of fresh cucumber.

Simple Lemon Verbena Syrup Recipe:

1 Cup water
1 Cup sugar
1/3 Loosely-filled cup lemon verbena leaves (very slightly bruised)
Heat sugar and water in a pan, stirring to dissolve.
Add lemon verbena and simmer (barely) for 15 min.
Cool, strain and bottle.

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The syrup will store happily in the fridge for at least a month but it never lasts that long!

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Sloe Port

This post was originally published last February. It fell off the system, presumably during an update, and as I was tied up with exams etc, wasn’t noticed by me until a very unseasonal August! I have made more since then and it is still a really good tipple.

Sloe Port

Being from Devon, the question of what to do with leftover sloes has never really been considered a conundrum. Used sloes get dunked in cider and left until Easter in order that another bank holiday can be celebrated! The resulting drink, known as ‘Slider’ can be drunk neat, or as a long drink. It has been the culprit behind many a post-scuba headache during Easter dive training in Cornwall. Apparently, non-Devonians do things differently: dunking sloes in chocolate or scoffing with ice cream seem to be particular favourites. Caroline Taylor (@allthatimeating) took it back to boozy basics and posted a suggestion she termed ‘sloe port’.

My first reaction was

“really?!”,

followed by

“well, it’s not exactly port”,

to

“I suppose it is fortified wine, of sorts”

to

“well, why not?!”!

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The recipe is simple:

1Kg used Sloes
100g Sugar
1 bottle Red wine
200ml Brandy
Time

Bung the used sloes in a bottle of wine for three months, add brandy and leave for another month. I’m not a wine buff but opted for a fruity mid-priced shiraz, working on the put-rubbish-in get-rubbish-out principle. I marked the 3 month date on the calendar, then applied the ish-factor as I added too much brandy and taste tested when I remembered two months after that.

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After the three months, the liquid was a beautiful clear red colour. The sloe flavour was evident, with an aftertaste of gin. I was surprised not to taste the wine, but that could be my poor palette. I added 300ml of brandy then read the blog to check maturation time to realise I’d added too much……whoops!

sloe wine

Events conspired to ensure the ‘port’ was filtered at the same time as the other fruity booze: about 2 months in total. The final result was absolutely gorgeous; really fruity and smooth and a definite winner with everyone who stayed over at Christmas. On the initial taste test my husband couldn’t identify what he was actually drinking but could still taste the sloe base.

After being quite cynical, I was really impressed with this drink. I will certainly make this again and stick to the brandy amount I added as the end result was so lovely. This really is a perfect winter warmer to savour in front of a roaring fire.

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