Orange Voddy

Oranges seem to be on 3 for 2 special offer at the moment so I have quite a lot. They are super juicy and tasty. As I like orange liqueur I thought it might be good try an orange voddy.

I’ve just prepared it now and its in the pantry doing its fruit voddy thing.

Here are the steps:

You can find my rules of thumb for fruit vodka making here.

Rosehip vodka

There are rosehips in the hedgerows.

And maybe in your garden.

You could use them to make syrup. Or jelly.

But I’m on a bit of a mission to try out lots of fruit vodkas.

Why?

Because they are so simple to do.

They look pretty.

They taste great.

And they make great presents/barter goods.

So I made this rosehip vodka last year…..

P1010945_2

You can find my basic method here.

Oh and the pretty glass was a barter with someone I let have some of my damson vodka :D

 

Elderflower rush

Its very nearly the end of the the elderflowers for this year, in fact in some parts of the country I’m sure they are already gone gone gone. But in a few places there are still some good ones to be found so if you are quick you might be able to grab a few flower heads and make cordial, champagne or…guess what……yes flavoured vodka.

Somehow I seem to have gathered a reputation for all things flavoured voddy and a few people have asked for the method for doing an elderflower one. So here it is:

6-8 good size elderflower heads in full bloom
750ml – 1l of vodka – basic supermarket is fine
250g-300g granulated sugar
a large glass jar or a s/steel pan will do

Make sure there are no bugs on the elderflowers.
Put the sugar then the flower heads in the jar or pan.
Pour over the vodka. I don’t use citric acid like you are supposed to in the cordial because I don’t think you need it here.
Stir.
Cover.
Leave to steep for at least a week preferably three. It will go a very pale sand colour. Or possibly look like ditchwater. This is okay
Stir or shake if the jar has a good seal regularly to help the sugar dissolve.
Strain either just with a sieve (so expect a bit of debris) or through muslin/coffee filter for a clearer result.
Bottle.
Leave to mature for at least 4 weeks or longer, the longer you leave it the mellower it gets but as elderflower is delicate you don’t want to leave it for ages, sloes and damsons can mature for a couple of years and get better but this would lose its flavour.
Drink straight. Use as a mixer like you would cassis. Or give it as gifts if you make loads.

Here’s a blog post with my more general method and tips for flavoured voddies:

http://withknifeandfork.com/a-peek-in-the-pantry

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.
Tips:
  • 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.

An unexpected glut of cherry plums

Of what? Of cherry plums. What are they then?

The simple answer is they are plums that look like cherries and the trees can be found planted in many a street and garden mostly across the southern half of the country.

But you want to know more than that don’t you? Well then if you are sitting comfortably I shall begin.

© Danielle Harlow – Fotolia.com

We’ve lived in our house for nearly 12 years and when we arrived the garden was a bit ramshackle. It had been nice at one point I’m sure but the previous owner was rather old (he had lived his whole life in the house) and it had been left to get overgrown. Both garden and house were in need of a LOT of work. It was a great chance to start from scratch and not have to live with someone else’s idea of the ‘perfect’ terraced house. So we set to work. It took the best part of 8 years for the house to be completely finished and a bit like the Forth Bridge it’s now time to start decorating all over again (no walls to re-plaster though this time).

But I digress.

We have also made plenty of changes to the garden. Sadly the greenhouse hidden at the end was too rotten to save and the pond a little too large to look after. So they went. There were plants that were past their prime or couldn’t survive the severe trim they needed and others we didn’t know what to do with (or didn’t like – pampas grass anyone!). One of these was a quite young looking tree that didn’t show much promise; it was bolting for the light through the trees in our neighbours’ garden. The initial decision was that it would probably have to go. But we didn’t get round to it and then it was February and the tree came into blossom way before anything else giving a wonderful feeling of the approaching spring and providing some brightness in a wintery garden.    


    

The tree in blossom earlier this year

 

So it stayed. And each year the blossom has been wonderful, sometimes as early as January but never later than the end of February. The blossom is white and because it comes so early I started to assume maybe it was some kind of almond tree.Then we started to get fruit, not many at first and often hard and green with a small stone. It didn’t really look like an almond and I never got very far in trying to find out what it was.  


    

Plums on the tree in mid June

Then this year I became determined to find out what it was. I was spurred on by my day of wild food foraging but it wasn’t until I got a copy of The Forager Handbook (thanks @RachieGraham) that I was finally able to work out what it was. Some cross checking on the internet to confirm and just as the fruits started to be ready I knew at last that it is a cherry plum and that it is edible. And this year there seemed to be quite a lot of fruit.

    

Just some of the haul

So I started to collect the fruit, and I carried on collecting them, and on and on and on and on and on. And over about 3 days I collected about 15kg (I lost count somewhere I think). And then I needed to process them because eating 15kg of fruit straight off was not going to be a good idea. A couple of tweets later and I had recipes for pickled plums (thanks to @Weezos) and plum chutney (thanks to @TheAmpleCook) and some possible giveaways that in the end couldn’t be managed. Naturally I already had in mind some of my almost legendary fruit vodka so I got to work. Oh my and what work it was.    


    

Bucolic England (Flatford Mill, 2007. copyright Jonathan Taylor (Flickr user Northstander)

When I was a ‘corporate slave’ I harboured dreams of having a little chutney and preserves business, because when you sit at a desk most of the day building spreadsheet models, writing reports and trying to keep 150 very nice solicitors in check your mind roams off into bucolic styled dreams of country England and domestic pursuits such as baking bread and making chutneys. Every now and then I would rustle up a batch of some kind of chutney and dish it out to delighted friends and family – it all seemed such fun. Well let me tell you its not so much fun if you have to do it day in day out. And I say that after only 2 ½ days of plum processing! I reckon that each kilo of plums equated to about 180 actual plums.    


Just some of the 2700 plums I stoned

So I’ve stoned 2,700 plums BY HAND. I’m surprised I haven’t developed RSI. And the thing is I reckon I only got about ¼ of the total possible harvest…why? Well the tree is against our fence so half of the branches are over next-door’s garden so there’s 50% I didn’t get and then I was only collecting those that fell and were in good condition and weren’t under a prickly shrub. I took a peak under one of the shrubs and there were loads more under there so I reckon I lost another 25% that way (of the total not of the remainder – see what all those years with spreadsheets did to me). So I guess the tree had roughly 60kg of fruit on – not bad for what used to be a gangly upstart that we nearly got rid of. 

Now I have pickled plums, plum chutney, plum vodka, plum compote, bottled plums (in sweet syrup) and I’m still collecting about 500g a day……more vodka with them I think as that’s the easiest to make.    


    

    

Here’s the final haul

 


So if you’ve got a plum or damson tree watch out because I think it’s going to be a bumper summer. And if you’ve not well then don’t go too mad at the fruit farm 2½ days of fruit processing is more than enough for anyone.

Here’s some ways to deal with your own fruit glut. I’d also recommend The River Cottage Preserves Handbook for good ideas.     

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.

Tips:
    

  • 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.

 


Plum Pickle (adapted from a series of Tweets by Weezos)
    


1kg plums
1ltr wine vinegar
500g sugar
100g salt
spices of your choice

Salting the plums

Stone the plums and place them in bowl sprinkling salt over each layer as you go. Leave for 12-24 hours.
Sterilise glass jars in an oven for 10 minutes at R2/150C and leave to cool.
Bring the vinegar, sugar and spices to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.
Rinse the salt from the plums and pack in jars. Cover with pickling vinegar.
Seal and allow to mature for a minimum of two weeks (longer is better) in a cool place.
Good with terrines and game dishes.     

Spiced Plum Chutney (thanks to TheAmpleCook)


    

  

Nearly ready for the jars

 

This recipe is from Delia Smith.

3lb plums
1lb apples
3 onions
3 cloves garlic
2 heaped tsp ginger
1lb seedless raisins
1lb soft dark sugar
1lb Demerara sugar
1 pint vinegar (recipe says malt I used cider)
2 tbsp salt
2 cinnamon sticks
1oz allspice berries
1 dsp whole cloves
large non-reactive pan
6 jars

Note: you can adapt the spices to a mix of your favourites but you need roughly the same quantity, for example I had a smoked chilli in mine, and coriander because I like them.

Put the spices in a muslin square and tie it tightly with string.
Stone the plums, finely chop the apples (cored but leave on the skins), finely chop the onions and put them all in a large pan.
Crush the garlic and add it, the raisins, ginger, sugars and vinegar to the pan. Sprinkle in the salt and stir well.
Suspend the whole spices in their ‘bag’ into the pan and tie to the handle for easy removal later.
Bring to the boil and then simmer pour about 3 hours until the vinegar has almost disappeared and you have a thick, soft chutney. Remember to stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Sterilise the jars and fill whilst both they and the chutney are still warm.
Leave to mature in a cool place for a minimum of 3 months.

 

 

 

Eating Eurovision: Part 2 Russia – bring on the blini…..

They say you should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper. And today I am trying pretty hard….I’ve breakfasted like King Harald V of Norway on brown cheese and flatbrød and now I’m about to lunch like a Tsar (or Roman Abramovich) on blini and vodka. Its all good stuff and in aid of Eating Eurovision (a rather mad project thought up by journalist and food blogger Andrew Webb) – 25 food bloggers eat 25 cuisines within the M25.



I got Russia out of the lottery pingpong ball bag and also opted for Norway as an extra.

And that is where I came unstuck.

 

I woefully underestimated how long it would take to track stuff down, get it, eat it, write about it. I did Norway first because I thought it would be really hard to find the foods I wanted but actually it wasn’t so bad, finding Russian contacts and leads has proved much much harder. I thought there were lots of Russians in London and maybe there are but I didn’t find any. I found a possible deli in Queensway (Kalinka) but after buying my Norwegian cheese mountain had no time or strength left to get there to check it out. I’d spotted various restaurant options but time was short and I wanted to do some actual cooking. 

Then I thought of vodka tasting at Potemkin but my friends could not be convinced to leave the grotty surroundings of the pub they had started the evening in to walk less than half a mile, they suggested the nearer Polish bar but that’s Polish so how was that going to help. I bet vodka isn’t just vodka you know, I bet it has hundreds of subtle nuances. Oh and to be fair to my mates by this time it was pouring with rain so we would have got drenched.

So having drawn some blanks and having been pointed at blini by fellow Tweeters – I thought lets make blini (and wash them down with a splash of vodka). I was tempted to go to a Lithuanian deli in Leytonstone I’d spotted during internet research for a (very) vague bit of almost authenticity but having seen @hollowlegs tweets about her Lithuanian restaurant eating I decided maybe not. Anyway I needed a recipe first, now I might have hundreds of cookbooks but curiously not one of them is about Russian food. Surfing the web throws up lots of blini recipes and some earlier surreptitious reading of books in Foyles suggested that actually mini blini are okay but the real deal is to have big huge proper pancake size blini – oh yay lunch sorted: big savoury blin (apparently the singular of blini according to wikipedia…hmmm doubtful) followed by big dessert blin.


Sorted right? Wrong. By this time it’s already past the deadline to post and I’ve only just decided what I’m doing. Oh dearie dearie me. 

And there are only two choices in such circumstances: don’t post and FAIL completely or CHEAT.


So I cheated. Yes I did what we were not supposed to do I went to Waitrose bought the most Russian looking things possible, came home, cooked, ate and made myself listen to the Russian entry on repeat as penance! I could have cheated more by pretending the vodka we already had was Russian but I didn’t, maybe that makes it all ok?

My blini were good, they were rather thick so could perhaps be classed more as oladi (which are well, big fat blini) and very filling. I did a bit of a cheats recipe (what not more cheating) and followed the recipe on the bag of buckwheat flour using baking powder instead of yeast to get the raised texture but it worked fine. The 100% buckwheat flour makes a very brown looking batter. For the savoury topping I had sour cream, Russian (i.e. beetroot) cure salmon and chopped quails eggs and for the sweet more sour cream with warm raspberry compote I quickly made from frozen raspberries. Then I had a splash of Russian vodka to finish it all (and me!) off.



I am very very full now. I’ve had two hearty cuisines only a few of hours apart – perhaps fine if it was snowing and minus something scary outside but a little much for spring day in London. If I’m lucky it’ll mean I sleep through tonight’s competition and don’t have to watch all those crazy acts again. 

I’ve also learnt that if you bite off more than you can chew you’ll get indigestion somewhere along the way but on the other hand, as Tennyson almost said:


‘Tis better to have tried and cheated than to have never tried at all’. 

Yeah right!