I have spent much of the Summer and Autumn setting copious quantities of fruit to stew in vast amounts of various alcohols. I have made Wild Cherry Ratafia, Haw Brandy and Raspberrycello. Damson Gin, Sloe Vodka and Blackberry Whisky. Not to mention the Raspberry & Apple Gin, Creme de Mure, Elderberry Liquor, Currant Shrub, Beech Leaf Noyau and the inevitable Sloe Gin among many others. Indeed, I may I have made mention of my alcofrolicking before.
Inevitably all this alcohol means the fruit is well preserved when the time comes to drain it off (arguably it has imparted all its flavour and is fit only for the bin. I am not sure about composting things once sugar or alcohol has been involved but no doubt any gardeners among you could tell me?). However, somehow this does not seem right. Carl Legge suggests a wonderful trilogy of recipes for sloes which uses the same batch each time so clearly sloes, at least, still have plenty to offer. I currently have a batch of Sloe and Rosehip wine and Vodka on the go following Carl’s advice and am looking forward to the final part of the trilogy when I get to make the jam. So far it’s all, er, hopeful? The wine looks pretty:
Covering damsons or sloes in melted chocolate (with some citrus zest and christmas spices for variety) is another lovely way to use boozy fruits up. The hit of whatever alcohol has been used for soaking makes these a very special after dinner treat.
Today, though, I decided to experiment with my tried and tested Christmas cake recipe. On Friday, I had bottled a batch of Plum Brandy and a some Plum Rum, and what with plums featuring quite strongly in Christmas cooking folklore, I decided these fruits would make a welcome addition to the cake mix. I simply stoned and weighed the plums, then substituted them for a mix of the other dried fruits. As these plums had all come from our summer boating trips, I decided to add to the foraged nature of cake by using my chestnut flour in place of the ground almonds. The result is a light coloured, densely fruity cake that I will feed with Plum Brandy between now and Christmas. Having made some little ones for hampers, the Captain and I sampled one and I have to say it tastes delicious!
2kg Dried Fruit + boozy fruit, chopped & stoned – I used: 500g brandy & rum plums; 400g currants; 400g sultanas; 300g raisins; 225g glacé cherries; 175g mixed peel.
100g Chestnut Flour (use ground almonds instead as alternative)
grated zest of 2 lemons
grated zest of 1 orange
400g softened butter
400g dark soft brown sugar
4 1/2 tbsp plum brandy (or other hedgerow brandy/rum to match boozy fruit)
2 tbsp black treacle
100g self-raising flour
375g plain flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 1/4 tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
Grease and double line a 9 inch deep square cake tin. Pre-heat oven to 150c/Gas 2. Combine fruit in mixing bowl and stir in chestnut flour with citrus zest. In another mixing bowl cream together the butter, sugar and treacle with an electric hand whisk until light and fluffy. Sift the flours and spices together in a third bowl. Beat the eggs into the creamed mixture following each addition with two tablespoons of spiced flour. Mix in the plum brandy and then fold in the remaining flour. Add the fruit mixture and stir to combine. Spoon into the prepared tin, spreading out evenly. Cut out double thickness strips of brown paper to surround the outside of the tin and tie in place with string to prevent the outside edge of the cake becoming too hard during baking. Place just the below the centre of the oven and bake for approximately 5 hours until a skewer, inserted into the centre, comes out clean. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in tin for ten minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Keep wrapped in lining paper then further wrap in foil and store in an air tight tin for up to two months. Each week, peel back the layers and feed with a couple of tablespoons of plum brandy (or your chosen hedgerow brandy/rum) drizzled over the surface).