It all started with a malfunctioning clutch, a breakdown truck and a disused railway line. When my car was towed away out of sight, I decided to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and walk home along the old railway line.
And that’s when I saw them – the blackthorn bushes either side of the track, dripping with sloes. Ripe and plump and ready to pick. A bumper harvest of blue-black, powdery drupes, just waiting there patiently, ready for their turn in the gin-bottling limelight.
The next day, I was back and ready for a spot of foraging. Rule number 1 for foraging: make sure you know what you are picking! Rule number 2 – leave behind enough for wildlife and...
Misty mornings and the leaves are ochre and gold. There’s a nip in the air and the hedges are dripping with berries. Time for a spot of autumn foraging! Here are 4 vitamin-packed fruits to collect in autumn.
Elderberries ripen in late summer or early autumn. Pick the berries when they are fully ripe. You want them to look almost black, so if they are still green or burgundy, wait a little longer. Use a pair of scissors to snip the cluster of berries away.
Be certain you know what you are looking for as there are some poisonous lookalikes. If you need help to identify the elder tree, the Woodland Trust has some useful advice here.
I’m reliably informed that sloe gin tastes better and better the longer you leave it, but that’s a theory I’ve not had the patience to test!
The sloes we picked last October had been infusing the gin with their gorgeous berry flavours for three months when the serious business of bottling-for-Christmas began.
The eclectic assortment of bottles looked beautiful – lined up with their home-made labels and colourful twirls of ribbon – and I was all set to become the family’s favourite person this festive season. But what to do with all those gloriously alcoholic sloes?
Inspiration lay with the pretty petit four cases I’d once bought in a fit of domestic goddessness. Here’s the recipe for achieving top present-giver...
The collected sloes lay like shiny glass beads in the colander, I had staggered back from the supermarket with an armful of gin bottles (“Couldn’t you just mention they’re for sloes?” muttered my embarrassed daughter) and amassed my kilner jars. I was all ready for a bottling session.
There’s something very therapeutic about being creative in the kitchen. I felt like a Victorian pharmacist, lovingly creating my recipes and remedies. Or perhaps an old wise woman. (Though not so very wise – having removed the metal bands from my jars, it took me quite a long time to reassemble them. Not so old either…)
The recipes I’d gathered were reassuringly varied. There were...
It was a glorious autumn morning, the sun streaming low across the harvested field, the dog charging off to chase crows and investigate rabbit smells.
The dog is Marnie, our inquisitive, excitable, two year old Golden Retriever. One of the great advantages of working from home is being able to stride across the fields with her, before starting on the day’s work.
We clambered over a stile and into the next field. More accurately, I clambered over the stile. Marnie doesn’t do stiles. She adopts her bewildered “But you surely can’t expect me to jump over that?” expression, then goes off to scout out an alternative route.
The heavy rain of the previous night and the recently ploughed field were...