Hedgerow tipples.

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Foraging is always close to our hearts. It is a very relaxing and fulfilling activity to go out in the search of nature’s free bounty. We like to seek out places far from roads and houses and ask permission form the landowner if it is not on public land.

These past few weeks we have been lucky enough to have time for two such outings, one at an old abandoned cottage where the brambles have taken over completely, growing out of the old window-frames and doorways. Fat juicy blackberries greeted us at every turn.

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Another trip took us to a nearby hedgerow by a field, home to several old gnarled blackthorn trees. The sloes here were very big, looking like small, dark plums with a silvery, powdery coating.

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While looking for sloe gin recipes online we came across several places suggesting to also making blackberry whiskey, a drink we had never heard about before.

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The procedure is quite similar to that of making sloe gin as you place your blackberries in a large bottle or demijohn, fill up with sugar and pour on your chosen spirits.

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The amount of sugar can be adjusted slightly depending on the level of sweetness you prefer, but you need enough sugar and spirits to make sure the berries get preserved and don’t turn mouldy.

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It is now about six weeks since we prepared our blackberry whiskey, but it will need to sit for up to a year before being strained through a muslin cloth and bottled. The left over berries can be eaten with ice-cream or used in baking.

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For our sloe gin we decided to add haws as well, from the hawthorn tree. We have a special variety with large yellow-orange fruits and used them along with some of the typical small red haws found in the wild. We also wanted to spice things up a bit and added cardamom pods, juniper berries, Szechuan pepper corns and pink pepper corns.

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We used light brown sugar for this and poured on the gin.

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A clean stick or bamboo knitting needle can be used for stirring the mixtures over the next couple of days until all sugar has been dissolved.

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Haws have long been used as a tonic to strengthen the heart and cardiovascular system. Sloes have a history of purifying the blood and removing toxins and also help with many digestive problems.

Perhaps we will grow a little impatient and strain and bottle the sloe-haw gin in time for midwinter this year, although it would benefit from being left for longer.

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We are looking forward to many slow dark winter evenings, sipping a small glass in front of the fire and dreaming of the bright, sunny and crisp afternoons when we went to forage for the ingredients for our tipples. The berries, haws and sloes have ripened in the sunshine, aided by the minerals and nutrients from the soil, water from the rain and the refreshing power of the wind. We think all of these elements can be traced in the finished drink and for that we are very happy.

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7 thoughts on “Hedgerow tipples.

  • Very interesting! What a colorful mixture, it has to be the most attractive way to make booze I’ve seen. 🙂 I think the sloe gin found around here (U.S.) is synthetic, and not many people drink it, even as an old-school cocktail “Sloe Gin Fizz.” I was about to tell you, that blackthorn/sloe doesn’t grow here, but checked, and found it’s somehow naturalized in a few spots in New York, including the county next to the one I grew up in! I was floored, and don’t recall running across it. But when I’m home for a visit, I’ll try to look for it.

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    • That is so interesting. It is a very thorny tree and can sometimes be difficult to harvest. The sloes are incredibly astringent when picked but with the addition of sugar and gin the true flavor is brought out. I made a very nice wine from them as well once. Hope you manage to find them on your next visit home. The white flowers are very pretty in spring.

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  • What a satisfying pastime! Your collected bounty looks very bright and colourful and it must be such a pleasure to be able to make your own drinks. It was very interesting to read about how you do it.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Oh, how nice that you have access to hawthorn. They are not native here. Those that are planted are grown as ornamental trees, rather than for fruit. Because they are not very pretty in the climate here, they are unpopular. It is on of those fruits that I would like to grow anyway, even though there are other better fruit to grow. We have plenty of other plums, blackberries, blue elderberries and such, but there are so many fruits that we lack.

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    • The hawthorn tree is one of my favorites. Such a lot of folklore surrounding it and excellent medicinal properties. It is as you know also very beautiful in its native climate. I have planted some with pink flowers as well. It is sad that they don’t suit your climate very well. But I guess you can grow a lot of things that are struggling here. I am never very lucky with lavender.

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      • Oh, Spanish lavender can naturalize! Fortunately, it is not invasive.
        I intend to grow a hawthorn, but I will keep it small so that I can get the fruit, and I will not expect much from it.

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