Fruity gin by the fire – there’s a seasonal tradition that can enjoyed at this time of the year. While you might be thinking ‘sloes’ , this recipe from guest blogger, Katy Pollard, takes advantage of a fruit that’s a bit more commonplace – the elderberry.
Every year I plan to make Elderflower wine. Every year I watch the Elder flowers grow…and die. We have an Elder tree in our front garden and this year I was determined to do it. And I watched as I watched the flowers wither again this year, I realised that the berries could also be fruitful.
So this weekend when they’d become plum and juicy I took my trusty wicker basket out and snipped them down, leaving a few for the local birdies.
The Elder tree is one of our staple growers in the UK. You must be careful when plucking its goodness as most of the tree is poisonous to humans. (Make sure you remove all stems and warm the berries through before using.)
Despite this, the tree has long been believed to have medicinal qualities and is, for example, understood to help in treating ‘flu – useful for those of us looking for natural home remedies for ailments (and needing an excuse to drink this recipe).
Along with the increasing trend for complementary medicines, has been a resurgence in foraging for freely-available foods. Many now spend weekends grazing for fruit, nuts and berries. Tapping into our wild sources of food has perhaps become an even more attractive option in the current economic climate.
Similarly, gin rose to popularity in the early eighteenth century in this country when times were pretty tough and it tended to be the favoured drink of the lower classes. Believed to have a calming effect (doesn’t all alcohol in moderation?!) the spirit takes its flavor from juniper berries.
With the recent interest again in gin (Hendricks anyone?) with the complementary tastes of two berries and a shared history and this seems a perfect recipe.
For a jar of Elderberry Gin:
500g of Elderberry
100g of sugar
70cl of gin
Warm berries gently (microwaving for a couple of mins works a treat) and then stir in the sugar so it starts to dissolve. Tip the mixture into a sterilised jar. Pour over the gin. Seal the jar and put in a cupboard for about a month. Take your ruby goodness out of the cupboard on Christmas Eve, open and sniff. Strain the fruit out (and use in a dessert). Pour. Enjoy.
* Katy Pollard grows herbs, fruit and veg and keeps chickens, ducks and even a pig. She loves cooking with items from the garden in Leeds and is sharing some simple seasonal recipes here.