Drink your garden

If you grow your own fruit and vegetables you will no doubt have made jams and chutneys galore and probably given much of it away. So what are you going to do with the glut this year? The best advice is to make soft drinks, tisanes, wine and all manner of tipples and join the latest grow your own trend and ‘drink your garden’!

The quickest drink to make is a berry cordial, which can be knocked up in minutes by boiling the mashed fruits with sugar or honey to taste. After straining the liquid, the summer flavours can be bottled and used throughout the winter.

Any number of fruits, herbs and vegetables can be blitzed into a healthy smoothie. My family favourites include apple and cucumber with mint and carrot and beetroot with a coriander leaf garnish. We also make herbal teas or tisanes and find lemon verbena particularly refreshing and mint makes a good digestif.

Depending on what you’re concocting, you’ll need to strain the mixture through muslin into a plastic fermentation barrel with a fitted lid and then, in the case of wine, a demijohn with rubber bung and airlock

Making wine is a skill that you may find worth mastering and whether you decide to create the classic parsnip wine or a modern fuchsia coloured beetroot booze – the general rule for making alcohol is the same. Soak your chosen produce in hot water and sugar, add yeast and leave.

The brew really needs to be kept at a steady temperature, ideally an airing cupboard, to keep the process going. Only when the bubbles stop and when the liquid clears, which usually takes around 3-4 weeks, is it ready to siphon into bottles.

Vegetable wines take at least year to develop their full flavour, aroma and most of their qualities, but are often better after two years, so patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to wine making

Do a bit of research and you’ll discover recipes that will turn apples into cider within three months and will no doubt begin to appreciate that getting hold of a good, tried and tested recipe is the key to success plus of course, cleanliness. Bacteria will ruin wine and all your efforts, so it’s essential to sterilize all equipment using Milton liquid, which is used for sterilizing babies’ bottles, and boiling water.

For the best seasonal flavours you can rely on blackcurrants, blackberries and raspberries for making a delicious red wine with fruity flavours and of course grapes, which make exceptional wines. Start a batch now and you could be sampling it by Christmas – but if your wine is still a little cloudy by New Year, do not panic, it should clear by itself given a little more time.

A standard wine recipe uses around 2 kilos of mashed fruit and makes around 4.5 litres. You’ll find that most wine makers often use dried fruit in their recipes to add character and fullness plus improve fermentation. Experience seems to show that making wines from root crops, which are naturally sweet but have no acid, also requires the addition of orange or lemon juice and even a measure of strong tea to get things going but the general advice is to wait until after the first straining, otherwise it can lead to very cloudy wine.

Another garden elixir that has become all the rage in drinking circles is the botanical cocktail, which is quicker and easier to make than wine.

Trendy garnishes for summer drinks are edible dianthus, rose and marigold petals plus the classic sprig of spearmint and borage, which is the signature of a Pimms Fruit Cup

Remember that it takes time to learn the alchemy to turn surplus fruit and vegetables into alcohol but beware the hobby, if not the drink, can become addictive!

Blackerry wine recipe 

2kg Blackberries
1 kg sugar
good red wine yeast
250 ml red grape concentrate or about 300g elderberries
Pectolase-as directed on container
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1tsp of citric acid

Pour 2 pint boiling water over the blackberries and add sugar.
leave overnight
Make up to 7 pints with cold water and add rest of ingredients
Leave 48 hours- it should froth and bubble,  give it a bit of stir when you pass it.
Strain off into a clean demi john and fit airlock.
When the frothing dies down a bit top up to the shoulders of the demi john with cold water
Leave to ferment out until bubbles stop.
Syphon off and add a campden tablet and potassium sorbate.
Leave to clear and bottle when clear.
Sweeten if required but does taste very good as a dry wine.

TIP

Blackberries don’t keep too well, make the wine the day you pick them. If you leave them they start
to go mouldy and things crawl out of them!

courtesy of www.thebrewshop.com

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