Using up Boozy Fruit from Hedgerow Liquor

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:

but I’m not so sure about the vodka or its potential for jam:

but I shall persevere.

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!

Hedgerow Christmas Cake

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

6 eggs

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).


Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

Saturday night we moored at Armitage, just north of the toilet factory. I love that place. The way the toilet bowls are all lined up along the back fence. The way scintillating conversation vanishes down the pan as lavatorial puns abound and we hurry past with no time to loos. Sorry. Had to be done.

Flushed with success (ok, I’ll stop now) over my dewberry moment on Sunday, I was not expecting more. Indeed, I was happy with my lot. I would have been quite content to let the Dewberry Jelly drip overnight and jam it this morning. But this is August the hedgerows are teeming. During the course of the day I had the opportunity to effect my Standing on the Roof of your Narrowboat gathering method for some wild plums which were perfectly ripe.

We ate probably more than we should have done and the rest I set aside for jam and Rumtopf. Then there were the enormous rosehips of the Japanese Rose. If Carlsberg made rosehips, then they would definitely make them like this. Obviously I found dewberries and blackberries. But what most surprised was that the elderberries were beginning to ripen. I found enough inky black ones to throw into my jam.

I needed apples too but our Bramley apple tree had shaken its branches before we left home and I had gathered a bagful of windfalls to bring with me.  As jams go, it is very tasty.  Particularly as by making it two parts the boat was filled with the scent of rosehips, apples and plums one day, then blackberries and elderberries the next.  Divine.

Trent & Mersey Towpath Jam

225g Japanese Rosehips

450g Wild Plums

900g Windfall Apples / Crab Apples

300g Blackberries & Elderberries

450g Sugar

Wash fruit.  Put rosehips, plums and chopped apples (skins & cores) into a preserving pan.  Add water to cover (about 1.2 litres) and cook slowly until the fruit is tender.  Strain in a scalded jelly bag overnight.  Return strained liquid to pan with blackberries & elderberries.  Add sugar and heat gently stirring all the time until sugar has dissolved.  Bring to a fast boil and boil until setting point is reached – about 10 to 15 mins.  Pour into sterilised jars and seal.