Nathan Shepherd explains how to stock up your booze cabinet for the winter.
Autumn is a time of abundance. Nature gives us a last chance to get ready for the long winter months. Now is the perfect time to collect all kinds of delicious wild food. This summer, we had a squirrel family living outside our home. As the days grew cooler, they began to take nuts from the feeder. They buried them in the backyard for winter.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been doing the same thing but using bottles of alcohol. I have been making rose hip vodka and sloe-gin. These berries are in abundance at this time of the year. Sloes and rose hips, both of which are delicious, are rarely used in anything other than gin.
When it comes to making these drinks, I am very much in the bung-it-all-together-and-don’t-measure-anything camp. But if that freaks you out a bit, then you can look up these recipes online and get some more detailed/professional information, but I doubt it will actually make much difference to the final product. Don’t worry about the technical details or measurements. Just have fun. Pour yourself some wine, play some music, and put on your pajamas. Make the experience fun. It’s hard to go wrong. Let’s look at both recipes:
First, you need to check how much money is in your bank account. You may think it’s easy to say, “I will make six bottles of Sloe Gin this year,” only to be surprised when you have to pay for the product. Since 2020 will not be remembered as an affluent year (unless you’re in the hand sanitizer or bog roll business), we are likely to make just one or maybe two bottles of gin this year. I made one 1-litre bottle. This should be enough unless Becky returns. After deciding how much gin to purchase, choose the right amount of sloes. It’s not a law that I have to follow. You can use less or more depending on the number of sloes growing nearby and how quickly you tire when picking them.
There is little you can do wrong with either of these recipes, so don’t fret about weights and measures.”
Next, get an empty gin and stab or prick each sloe. This takes some time but will give your gin a better flavor. This is where the wine glass and music make it a bit more fun. Pour some sugar into the bottle. The amount you use depends on how sweet your sloe-gin is. I don’t want it to be that sweet, so I only add 80-100 grams. This is much easier with a funnel. You can use a spoon if you don’t own a funnel. It can get tedious. Pour in the gin and close the lid. The only thing left is to store it in the pantry and shake it every so often.
Ideally, your gin would mature for at least a year. However, we all know it won’t last that long. I’m planning to open mine by the end of December. Don’t forget, once the bottle is empty, to make jam from the leftover gin-soaked sloes. This will make a delicious breakfast treat. Even the dullest of February mornings can be brightened by this.
It’s a bit more difficult to make but has one major advantage over sloe-gin. It’s ready for drinking immediately. This is a good option if you want instant gratification. Begin by purchasing your vodka. This will yield two bottles. Then, choose your rose hips. For two bottles, I chose about 3/4 of a full colander. It’s surprisingly simple to pick them, and you can get the right amount in no time. Add water to the large pan with rose hips. You will need to use the same amount or slightly more than the amount of rose hip vodka that you intend to make. Add 1.5-2 liters of water to the rosehips to make two bottles. After that, simmer the rose hips vigorously with the lid on for 2 to 3 hours. The rose hips will break down, and the flavor will mix with the water. As the mixture simmers, it will also reduce.
After simmering, filter the rose hips out of the water. The only part that requires some attention is this step. The rose hips contain many little hairs that can irritate the skin and digestive system. (For those of you who were mischievous as children, you may remember stuffing crushed rose hips on the head of a child at school in order to make him itchy). These will have to be carefully removed before they can be consumed. It’s easy to do. First, use a sieve to remove large rose hip pieces. Then filter the remaining water either through a paper filter or layers of clean cloth. The latter was the best option. It’s a long process, so it is best to set it up, then go do something else. Add the sugar once this has been done. I used 500 grams. Add it to two wine bottles with screw tops and top them up with vodka. This is ready for drinking immediately and pairs well with chocolate pudding. Best served chilled.
These recipes are both very easy to make, and the final product is delicious. You don’t need to worry about weights or measurements. Both recipes are easy and tasty. The only thing that you should be concerned with is filtering the rose hips of their hair. You can adapt both ideas to work with any edible berries you may have in your area. Blackberry vodka, anyone?