Nature has ensured that hedgerow fruits are abundant in the countryside this year, proving that there can be advantages to a wet start to a British summer followed by a warm, sunny autumn
Brambles (blackberries to our English readers) are plentiful, providing a ready supply of fresh fruit, and inspiration for countless jams, compotes, puddings, and pies.
However, with an eye looking towards the winter, it is time to reveal another use for this most versatile of fruits: Bramble Liqueur. Simple to make and ready to drink well before its winter rival Sloe Gin, it will provide you with a warming dram through the winter months, or for as long as supplies last!
Organic caster sugar
Empty bottle (or preserving jar) for each bottle of gin used
Sterilise the empty bottle(s) by washing in hot soapy water, rinsing, and drying in an oven on a high heat for 20-30 minutes; alternatively wash in a dishwasher.
Wash the fruit in cold water, discarding any mouldy or damaged brambles. (This recipe works equally well with brambles that have been washed and frozen.)
Pour a generous inch of caster sugar into each empty bottle, and then fill the bottle with brambles. Top up with gin – there should be enough space for half a bottle of gin in each bottle. Seal the bottle with screw cap or cork.
Upend the bottle gently several times to start dissolving the sugar, and store in a cool, dark cupboard. Shake the gently once a day for the next three or four days, then every couple of days for a week or two. (Don’t worry if you forget to do this, although it is the best way to blend the flavours, – we’ve sometimes ignored ours for a month with little ill effect.)
The Bramble Liqueur should be ready after a month, although it can be kept in the gin for four or five months, becoming an intense, velvety purple. Test, either adding a touch more sugar if required (if so, leave for a further fortnight), or strain through muslin and funnel into sterilised bottles. The brambles will have shrunk in their gin marinade as they release their juice, so you will retrieve a greater volume of liqueur than the half-bottle of gin in which the fruit was steeped. We avoid squeezing the fruit during straining, as it makes the liqueur cloudy and slightly bitter. Don’t compost the used brambles, unless you have a special desire to see them take over your garden next year; it’s best to pop them on in woodburner, or a roaring open fire, as you enjoy the fruits of your labours.
Seal the bottles, and leave to mature for as long as you can bear, stored in a cool, dark place to prevent the vibrant colour fading. Don’t worry if the liqueur develops a Port-like sediment after maturation, this is natural and can be removed by straining through muslin before decanting or rebottling.
As an aside, we have also tried this recipe with UK5 Organic Vodka, but found the bramble/vodka combination bitter. We’re currently using Juniper Green Organic Gin, which blends well with brambles, and does not leave a lingering ‘gin’ flavour.
The secret of this recipe is the use of equal quantities of gin and of fruit, and a sufficiently generous proportion of sugar to give both sweetness and volume to the liqueur. The Ethical-Hedonist, who rarely drinks, became rather squiffy after polishing off two glasses of His Majesty’s 2009 vintage: It is that good – you have been warned!
© Alexander Crum Ewing 7th November 2009, Revised 26th October 2010