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Tag: winemaking



The hunting season has started again. From now until the end of February we are greeted in the morning with the sound of shots and the yelping of hysterical dogs, just Thursdays and Sundays mind. Betty doesn’t care what day of the week it is, she  frequently returns from the undergrowth panting and wide-eyed, her mouth blood-stained. She chased a young deer  yesterday. Apart from the wild boar traps (some of you will remember Betty’s awful experience) I am not bothered by the hunting. The very fact it exists proves that the woods and hills nearby home rabbits, deer, foxes, mongeese (mongooses?), deer and wild boar, and plenty of other things we haven’t seen. And the reason these animals exist is because their natural habitat remains: hedgerows, coppices, unfarmed meadows, deciduous and coniferous woodlands…


What’s this to do with booze? Well, it’s the hedgerows for a start. Teeming with blackberries and sloes. Which means along with the damson vodka and cherry brandy we now have sloe gin to add to our winter noggins.


We live in the land of wine so why I’m tempted to make our own is beyond me. The quince effort, some years ago now, wasn’t tooo bad. The elderflower last year was actually quite quaffable, except for the last bottle left to share with friends which had suffered from the heat of the barn.

elderberry_wine2But while it’s never as good as the bought stuff that’s only made from grapes,  there is something romantic about country wines. So this year it’s the turn of the elderberry, something I’ve always wanted to try. I just couldn’t resist those tempting black berries. We’ll let you know in a year or two!

I have to admit though that lurking in the pantry are two bottles of walnut liqueur, a kind of nocino. We had a try after a year and it was horrid. So I added some sugar, replaced the tops and shoved them back in the pantry. I’m convinced that, when we remember to try again and wipe off the cobwebs, it’ll be superb. Cheers!

Oh, by the way: the hedgerows are also home to Cheeky Charlie. Yes, still on the loose among the brambles and wild roses, popping in for food and water occasionally and then back to the shade. Don’t count your chickens, Charlie!

Making things

Making things

Unlike Richard I have been rather slack at updating the blog so this is a summary of what I’ve been busy doing since the new year apart from veg patch stuff (another post for that). Well, in short, I’ve been making things. January saw in the orange season and so marmalade was first up, and therefore orange marmalade cake, along with orange liqueur, orange and mascarpone tart and of course freshly squeezed juice.

Next came the lemons and limes. The oranges were from our own trees but the lemons were taken from others. We stopped at one house with an over laden tree and asked if we could have some. Two full buckets of lemons meant searching for ideas. There were the lemon equivalents of what I made with the oranges plus lemon curd, lemon cordial, and, best of all, lemon meringue pie. The curd was also used to make a Lancashire version of Bakewell tart. The few limes from our own tree were turned into lemon and lime marmalade. The remaining lemons were cut up into slices and put in the freezer.

I cut the willow down completely and sat in the sun (we had a very hot winter) making another basket, this time using olive branches and redwood cuttings too. It was a year since my last attempt and so it felt like starting over again. It looked quite colourful when finished but I still can’t get the shape I want. I had been meaning to have another go but the willow branches have now all dried brown and been thrown away.

While my sister was here we made some more soap. The first batch was made only with our olive oil which we felt was a little slimy, and didn’t lather. So this time we made some with coconut oil and that was brilliant, except perhaps a touch too soft. I’ve recently experimented with other oils and so far (it’s still drying) it seems much harder – fingers crossed for the perfect bar! I also used water coloured with beetroot, it was deep pink initially but this practically disappeared when mixed with the caustic soda. However, the bars do have a lovely orange tinge to them now.

It was three years since the asparagus was planted so great celebration in being able to have our first spears. As the crowns came from my father it seemed only right to give some to him but the hot weather meant the 4 weeks of eating them would be over before he visited. So I preserved a jar of them in olive oil and rosemary having grilled the spears. It worked very well, and since then the artichoke hearts have been preserved too.

But now the roads and riverbanks are lined with elders in full bloom which means one thing: making elderflower cordial. I love it so much I’ve made 7 bottles of it, and one has already gone. Wanting to make the most of this fragrant of flowers I’ve also decided to have another go making wine. The quince effort wasn’t bad for a first time go but it was too sweet so I’m hoping this time for a better result. And am determined to make elderberry wine too, watch this space.

The most exciting thing that I’ve been making though is ice-cream! Richard bought me an ice-cream maker and it’s been great fun making up recipes – not with our own produce yet but I’m sure I’ll be an expert once the raspberries, blackcurrants, plums etc are all out. I’ve made mango, strawberry and, best of all, banana ice-cream. The latest attempt was with the elderflower cordial, it was nice but the lemon juice was too overpowering so will change the ratio of that for the next batch.

Along with the baking it’s been a busy time in the kitchen then. But I haven’t been the only one making things. Richard has made the table and benches and his next big project will be to make a barbecue stand in the courtyard. But now he’s just made a cup of tea…


Quince wine

Quince wine

Some of you may remember that back in October I started making my very first wine from the wonderful quince harvest. Since then it’s been racked a few times and now at last, over 6 months later, it’s been siphoned into bottles. As predicted the wine is a beautiful rose colour, not as clear as it should be but that’s fine by me. Six bottles have been filled and we tasted what was left over – not too bad, really! It actually tastes like wine! A touch sweet but I reckon it’s the perfect partner for rhubarb crumble… (and how nice to have a morning tipple of homemade wine on one’s birthday).