A peek in the pantry

Its fair to say I am an inveterate hoarder of stuff. All sorts of stuff. Books. Old adminy type things. Christmas and birthday cards. Shoes. Jars. Old kitchen things. Stuff. And more stuff.

This means our house can get quite full and because its an old house there aren’t actually that many places to shove or hide all this stuff. So rooms that are supposed to have other purposes become sort of holding areas for, well, stuff. And then if someone come to visit the stuff gets shuffled about and hidden for a while in a different room only to re-emerge and migrate back to its original position. Two rooms are particularly prone to this hoarding activity: the dining room and the spare bedroom.

Some of the vodka stash

But somewhere on Friday I developed the urge to actually be able to get in the dining room and use it for its proper purpose. And to do this I needed to get all the bottles and jars, empty and full, sorted and in the pantry, which of course was full of random things instead of pantry type things. The pantry is actually off the dining room because originally what we use as a dining room was the kitchen. So things meant for the pantry have a tendency to lurk on the dining room table.

The chutney and pickle stash

I worked away diligently for much of Saturday and Sunday, sorting, getting rid, organising, putting things in boxes, regrouping, dusting, polishing, and on and on. Finally I emerged triumphant. All was sorted, everything in its rightful place and a dining room restored to its proper use, the pantry now pantry like.

Tidy at last

So to celebrate we had a big roast dinner of shoulder of pork, pommes anna, asparagus and white sprouting broccoli. Yum. Oh and couple of nips of some of that lovely flavoured voddy. Here’s the recipe, works with all sorts of fruit including rhubarb (which is in season right now):

My Legendary Fruit Vodka

I don’t use fixed measure for this but ratios.
Select your fruit of choice and weigh it. They tip it in a large glass jar (e.g. a preserving jar with a clip lid).
Add between half to the same weight of sugar (I usually used granulated) depending on how tart the fruit is and how sweet you want the result to be.
Then pour over about 1 ¼ -1 ½ times the volume of vodka as you had weight of fruit; so if you had a 750ml bottle of vodka you’d be looking to find between 500-600g of fruit.
Add any extras you think you’d like, a shaving of lemon peel is good with damsons or sloes.
Stir it all round to get as much as the sugar to dissolve as possible.
Close the jar and leave for a minimum of 6 weeks.
Check regularly and shake to help the sugar dissolve. After the first 6 weeks test the flavour and either leave to extract more flavour or strain and bottle.
Leave the bottle to mature for a further few months minimum. It gets better with age if you can resist for long enough.
  • If you haven’t got a large glass jar but have a glut of fruit you need to use up quickly then put everything a big non-reactive pan, cover and then track down a jar – it’ll be fine for the first few weeks in a pan.
  • You can use gin instead of vodka but remember gin already contains its own aromatics so you’ll get a different flavour. Sloes and damsons work particularly well with gin.
  • If the fruit is quite hard then you need to break the skin to allow the flavours to mix – I do this by putting the fruit in a large freezer bag and bashing it a bit with the rolling pin. If you’ve stoned the fruit (or its a soft fruit) then there’s no need to do this.
  • You might want to strain through muslin or even a coffee filter before bottling if you want a really clear result. If you don’t mind sediment there’s no need to bother.
  • Be wise whom you share the vodka with; once people have tried some they’ll always be angling for another bottle.