Summer 2019 : Homemade cherry brandy

We don’t have a cherry tree at the moment but we do have generous cherry-growing friends. A trug of cherries at this time of year is just the job for some homemade cherry cake, a clafoutis or to indulge in some store-cupboard alchemy, making cherry brandy. Making or creating something is one of my particular stress-busters. I don’t paint or sew or knit but I can garden, cook and prance about on a stage.

For this project you’ll need a bottle of (cheap) brandy, a kilner jar (1 kg should do it) and enough cherries to fill the jar (600-700g), 2 tbsp sugar ( I use soft brown) and a cinnamon stick. Obviously you can make more by upscaling the jars and ingredients.

Stone the cherries and pack them into the jar. Add the sugar and stir well. Pop the cinnamon stick in the top of the jar, pour in enough brandy to cover and seal.  Shake well and put away in a cool dark cupboard for about 6 weeks.

Shake the jar occasionally. (I have to write myself notes on the fridge as a reminder.) Then on a rainy day in September, remove your jar of cherry jewels,  pour through a sieve to remove the cherries and use these to recreate the scent and taste of summer on top of deliciously indulgent clotted cream or chocolate ice cream. At this point you’ll feel smug that you remembered to stone the cherries. Pour the brandy into pretty bottles, label and store in the pantry for that Christmas drinks party or to pack into hampers for those you love.

Easy, delayed gratification.

Summer 2019: Strawberry Fields forever

 

We don’t have a field of strawberries but we do have several pots, a hanging basket or two and a patch of alpine strawberries in our cottage garden. During the second week of the Wimbledon tennis championships it’s only natural that thoughts turn to strawberries – delicious and good for you, containing, as they do, potassium, vitamins C and K, fibre, folic acid and manganese. Reputed to help with digestive ailments, teeth whitening and skin irritations as well as helping to regulate blood sugar levels by slowing digestion Even the leaves can be eaten raw, cooked or used to make tea. I’ve known some people to be allergic to strawberries but the white varieties seem to be acceptable even to these poor folk.

Strawberries make their claim in history as a luxury item enjoyed only by royalty although they are readily available all year round now. As a child we enjoyed tinned strawberries and cream on a Sunday afternoon and thought it the height of decadence. Truly, I can’t remember when I last had a tinned strawberry or visited a strawberry fruit farm as we used to for a bumper batch of strawberry jam making.

We had a large punnet which needed using up and I decided to give a batch of spicy strawberry chutney a go at the weekend. At first this seemed all wrong. I’ve only ever eaten strawberries for pudding but I’m game for rebelling from time to time.

 

I added a bottle of red wine vinegar and 500 g brown sugar to about a kilo and a half of hulled and quartered strawberries, 2 red chillies, 3 red onions, 3 cloves of garlic and a knuckle of ginger – all minced and a good handful of pink peppercorns, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and coriander seeds.

I boiled it up and then simmered for about an hour until a wooden spoon drawn along the base of the preserving pan left a trail for a few seconds.

Then spooned into sterilised jars.

I may make another batch this week – some of which will find it’s way into this year’s Christmas hampers – a reminder of high summer.

 

 

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