Throughout the summer and autumn, the hedgerows of Britain offer a variety of treats to the forager for homemade wines and preserves. This third part of our recipe series gathers some of those fruits to make two distinctive summer drinks.
Blackberries are perhaps some of the most recognisable and readily available fruit during British summertime. From midsummer the spiky bramble is laden with fruit – so different, and so full of flavour compared with those grown for the shops. The small berries are tart and sweet in equal measure.
After the lacey light blossoms of the elderflower – so beloved of cordial makers – have disappeared, the dark black shiny elderberries appear in autumnal clusters. Picked from the branch they are not so inspiring but use them in wines and cordials and you will be delighted with the results.
Even cities and towns are bursting with wild fruit. Apples and plums are on almost every street corner, dropping their bounty without anyone seeming to notice. Small, wild apples are delicious for cooking and make especially good partners to wild berries in jams and jellies.
Damsons, cherry plums and gages start to appear in midsummer, staining the roads and pavements with their juices. Next time you take a walk or drive anywhere in the UK from July to September, keep your eyes peeled for hedgerow offerings.
Ingredients (makes 1.4l) – 1.4kg ripe cherries, 1l water, 150g caster sugar, 1 bottle of red or white wine.
Method – Put the cherries in a large pan and pour over the water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15-20 minutes until softened and the water has turned a deep, rich red. Squash them with a potato masher while still in the pan to help release the juice.
Pour through a muslin cloth and hang to let all the juice drip into a bowl. Once you have all the juice, add the sugar and wine and stir to dissolve. You can freeze the discarded cherries for later use in desserts or cakes.
Pour into sterilized bottles, leaving a bit of room at the top of each one, and then seal. Leave in a cool, dark place for up to six months before drinking.
Ingredients (makes 1.4l) – 900g ripe gooseberries, 200g caster sugar, 1l water.
Method Mash the gooseberries in a pestle and mortar, then mix with the sugar and water and leave to stand for 20 minutes. Drain through a muslin cloth into a bowl, letting it hang so you get all the juice.
You can drink this as cordial straight away or bottle it for wine. If you are bottling, pour the liquid into a sterile container, leaving some air at the top. Leave for two weeks then syphon into sterilised bottles. Seal them half way so some air can still get in for 3 days before serving.
Foraging must always be undertaken with care and supervision. Do not pick or eat any wild food without first getting expert advice on whether it is safe to do so. Crabtree & Evelyn will accept no liability for any independent actions taken or not taken as a result of information given here.
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