Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Homemade alcohol

My favourite alcohol at the moment is Jack Daniels. Not that I've had much chance to drink since I passed my driving test two years ago, but even when I do want to I find it's horribly expensive. So I've decided to have a dabble at homebrew, not proper homebrew with beer and wine (neither of which I drink), but cheats homebrew in the form of sloe gin and turbo cider.

Sloe Gin

I've started off two batches of sloe gin. The first I made with the original sloes I picked and put in the freezer overnight. All the sugar has dissolved and it's changed colour. This one's been going for five days now:

The second I made with twice as many sloes and didn't bother with putting them in the freezer first. I made this one in a 2 litre jug that used to hold scrumpy. This is what it looks like after the first good shake, you can still see the sugar in the bottom:

Here's the recipe I used, you can scale it up depending how much gin you have:


    * 1lb/454gm of sloes
    * 4 ozs/112gm of white granulated sugar
    * 70cl bottle of medium quality gin

Make sure you've taken all the stalks from the sloes, you could wash them if you like but I didn't bother. My sloes weren't near a road so shouldn't have been too polluted, and the gin will take care of any germs. Find a clean container big enough to take the gin and the sloes, you could buy a bigger gin bottle than you need and drink some first to make room! 
Prick each sloe with a fork before you drop it in the gin, add the sugar, seal and give it a good shake. Shake each day till the sugar has dissolved then shake maybe once a week or so. Store in a dark place to preserve the colour. After three months you can strain out the sloes (save them for eating with ice cream or try flapjacks) and drink the gin, or leave them in for a maximum of six months. The gin will keep for a long time and should mature well. Try to save a bottle till next year to compare!

Turbo Cider

Another experiment for me in homebrew land. I'd never heard of turbo cider before discovering it on the net a couple of weeks ago. The idea is to take ordinary cheap apple juice from the supermarket and make it into cider. No actual apples to gather/chop/press. 

There are many varied recipes out there for this one. You're best googling "turbo cider" and picking what suits you. At the moment I've got 3 litres of apple juice, 3 teaspoons of brown sugar, and 7g of wine yeast in a borrowed demijohn. I've sat in on a hotwater bottle and wrapped in fleece to try and keep it warm enough for the yeast to react.

If it looks suitably foamy tomorrow evening I'll add some more apple juice. If it works this could be a drinkable cider within a week or so....

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Foraging fun

I've attempted foraging for the first time today. Quite successful I think, as I've come home with 450g of rose hips (two different varieties) and 1lb (454g) of sloes. 

I'm not sure if I'm too early or late for the rose hips. One variety is quite soft and the other is still hard. I'm going to attempt rose hip syrup with them anyway. I'm just waiting to find out if I can mix them or not... 

I was surprised to find the sloes so easily, I was walking on greenbelt land that used to be a railway line for a coal mine. Sloes are a lot smaller than I'd imagined them. Only about the size of my thumb nail. I picked the slightly softer ones that had a bluish tint, there are plenty more that are still really dark and hard so I may well head out again when they're riper for a second batch. 

One of the dogs, Jess, surprised me by happily munching the sloes right off the branches that she could reach! They're supposed to taste disgustingly sour. She's a strange dog, she nabbed some of my strawberries straight from the plants and started on the blackcurrant bush over the summer, I think she's part goat...

Anyway, the plan for the sloes is of course sloe gin! I just need to pick a recipe now and figure out what kind of container to make it in. I've also got a recipe for "turbo cider" I'm going to try once I've got a demijohn for it. Busy busy busy. I will of course share recipes and results on here once I get going.

Apologies for the shoddy photographs, they're from my mobile phone which wasn't being entirely co-operative today.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Veg box trial

So apparently autumn is upon us already. It's been really windy and wet here (interspersed with the odd bizarre summer day) and the leaves are falling. All of my container grown potatoes have been dug up and stored away, and I only have a few carrots left in the pots. I have two apple trees but they only managed three apples and two of those blew off in the wind, so I'm not doing very well on the fruit front. They are only recently planted though and the dogs did eat all the lower branches so they've done quite well to survive at all. I'm hoping to build some raised beds next year and get more planted in the ground rather than pots.

I've been thinking about trying a veg box until I get better at growing my own, and after reading this post at Useless Beauty Designs I decided to try a box from Able and Cole. They deliver in my area every Friday and apparently my driver is named Dave, I didn't get to check that though as he had come and gone before I got up this morning. I ordered the small fruit and veg box which is suggested for 1 or 2 people.

My partner Sam almost stepped on it on his way out of the door at 8 o'clock! The box was a bit soggy at it's been raining, if I keep getting boxes I might have to build a shelter for them to be left in... 

Inside the box I got potatoes, carrots, sweetcorn, broccoli, onions, apples, plums, and grapefruit, and a bonus snail, but luckily he hadn't had time to munch on anything!

The box I chose has fairly basic veg in it, but Sam is not very adventurous yet so that's ok for now. They do have other boxes which promise more exotic choices. I haven't decided yet if I will keep having the boxes. On the plus side they contain mainly organic fruit and veg, they don't support a supermarket chain, they are delivered in re-usable and recyclable packaging, and I don't have to leave the house to get them! On the negative side they are more expensive than normal shop bought stuff. 

Hmmm..... decisions.......