The hedgerows are a rich source of wonderfulness; sloes, rosehips, blackberries, elder, hawthorne , all of which have great culinary merit. I will cover all these as they come into season.
Today I’m going to tell you about sloes and rosehips. Sloe Gin is one of the great pleasures of winter and is unbelievably easy to make. I then use the sloes again to make Sloe Sherry, which is a greater pleasure still in my opinion.
Rosehip syrup was a wonderful wartime essential when citrus fruits were so hard to come by, because it is packed full of Vitamin C. A dessertspoonful every day is a far cheaper alternative to taking vitamin C tablets and more natural. Personally I like it poured over vanilla ice-cream, waffles or pancakes.
Also remember that home made preserves, alcohol, cordials and syrups make lovely presents for your friends. Chose an attractive bottle or jar and decorate it with your own label and a ribbon and you will be loved forever. Incidentally, you will be amazed how many people stop and talk to you when you’re foraging in a hedgerow, and they will often have interesting things to tell you. Some are nutters of course, and they are the most interesting of all.
1 x large bowl or clean bucket with a lid (old nappy buckets are perfect for this)
a needle, cocktail stick or corncob fork
(eventually) bottles for putting it in
1 x sieve
1 sheet of muslin or a coffee filter
2 ½ lb sloes – approximate – this is not an exact science
1 litre of very cheap gin (or vodka if you prefer)
4oz (120g) white sugar – honey can be used instead for a more meady flavour
Take off all the leaves and twigs
Prick all the sloes and put them in your bowl or bucket
Pour in the gin and add the sugar
Put the lid on and leave until Christmas (although preferably 3 months)
Shake gently every day
Then strain off the liquid and filter it through fine muslin or a coffee filter
Bottle it. Ideally it should be left to mature for 6 months but I can never wait.
Put the sloe berries back into the bucket and pour over a litre of cheap sherry
Leave for another month, shaking daily
I challenge you not to drink it immediately (and you too will be shaking daily!)
2 x large pans – a good sized hob-safe casserole will do nicely
1 sharp knife or, better still, a blender or mini chopper
1 x colander
1 x jelly bag (or fine muslin and a sieve)
Sterilised small bottles or jars
2lb / 960g ripe rosehips – stalks and leaves removed
4 pints boiling water
2lb / 960g white sugar
Roughly chop the rosehips
Put them into the pan with 2 pints of boiling water and bring back to the boil
Remove from the heat and leave to infuse for half an hour
Strain off the liquid through a colander and then strain again through a jelly bag
Return the hips to the pan, add another 2 pints of boiling water
Bring back to the boil and leave to infuse for half an hour
Strain as before
Combine the two liquids in a clean pan and boil until it is reduced by about half
Take it off the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is dissolved
Bring back to the boil and boil hard for 10 minutes
Pour into the warm, sterilised bottles or jars, seal, leave to cool, then store