This year we’ve seen some pretty impressive displays of bluebells. I’ve been told that the wet winter and spring has helped to produce lots of healthy plants, and that the lack of rain over the last few weeks has created the perfect finish. Bluebells aren’t very sturdy plants, and the heavy showers that we might normally expect in April usually make them collapse.
At the weekend I took a trip over to Winkworth Arboretum near Godalming in Surrey. My 9 year old son is becoming a skilled photographer and we decided to head out at dawn to capture the autumn colours in the magic hour!
It’s been a great year for fruit in the hedgerows, so I just couldn’t resist picking some Wild Damsons as there were literally thousands of them overloading a tree near our house. My logic for picking them was that it seemed wrong to let such fine fruit go to waste!
Naturally I considered making either jam and chutney, but with a little persuasion I agreed to make some Damson Vodka… Damsons are a bit like Sloes, just sweeter and larger and more suited to Vodka than Gin. A typical Damson is about 20-30mm long and slightly rounded, with a skin that is often a dusky matt purple colour (see the photo above).
A quick search on Google revealed a wide range of recipes for making Damson Vodka, so I’ve created an ‘average’ recipe from all of them and will see how it goes… I’ll let you know!
To make Damson Vodka you will need:
To walk around the countryside picking Damsons
Roughly a pound of Wild Damsons
About 6 ounces of white sugar
A 70cl bottle of mid-price Vodka
A sterilised 1 litre Le Parfait Jar or similar
I gave all my Damsons a good wash, and then put them in the freezer. Freezing them splits the skins, plus there are lots of great rumours about freezing improving the sweetness of the fruit. Not sure if that’s true though! Defrost the fruit and put it in the sterilised jar. Add the sugar and vodka, taking care to fill the jar nearly to the top (air can make the fruit go off). Give it a good shake, put it in a dark place, and shake it every day for about 3 weeks.
Here’s the tough part. The broth now needs to be left for about 6 months to mature. After about six months, the liquid can be strained through a muslin and decanted into bottles. Try a bit at this stage and decide if it needs more sugar… And here’s the REALLY tough bit! The Damson Vodka should now be left for another 6 months!
I think we’ll be drinking our liqueur on Bonfire Night 2012. But I’m sure it will be worth the wait…