I was going to make raspberry liqueur again this summer, but as we only managed a crop of four raspberries I have had to rethink my Christmas tipple! This summer has seen an abundance of berries burgeoning in the hedges and fields, so hedgerow schnapps is going to be the obvious (and cheap!) answer come harvest time.
Some words of caution; make sure you identify the berries correctly, as there are some more poisonous yet enticingly pretty ones draped through the undergrowth, such as briony. This grows on a vine so is easily identified… just keep an eye on the kids! Hawthorn berries (haws) are best avoided if you are pregant and have a heart condition, and the fluffy white stuff inside rosehips is an irritant (and used to be used as a budget itching powder, as my grandfather told me), so this needs scraping out. Don’t let me put you off though, the resulting drink is smooth, fragrant and makes a fabulous after dinner drink. Crab apples make a lovely addition too, washed, cored and cut into chunks; you can leave the skin on to reduce any unnecessary faffing; delicious served in shot glasses with a squeeze of fresh lime.
1 litre vodka (supermarket own brand is fine)
450 gr mixed berries (in this case, 300g blackberries, 50g sloes, 50g rosehips, 50g haws)
4 crab apples, washed and quartered
- Prepare your berries. I use blackberries as the main bulk, and these just need a quick wash. Remove any stalks from the haws, halve the rosehips and scrape out the inner and then wash them all thoroughly. Sloes are best picked after the first frost, but as the devil supposedly spits on blackberries on September 29th and you shouldn’t pick them after this, pop the sloes in the freezer overnight and this will have the same effect, helping the skins to soften and split.
- Sterilize a large 1.5 litre kilner jar, either by warming it in the oven, or by putting it in the dishwasher on a hot cycle (lazy I know, but it seems to do the trick).
- Layer the berries and sugar in the clean jar, then top up with vodka.
- Shake every day for 7 days to dissolve the sugar, then store in a cool dark cupboard for 3 months, before straining through a muslin and bottling. I tend to give it a little taste now and then, just to see if I need to adjust the sweetness and add more sugar.
- Haws can cause a sediment if left for over a month, so if you are doing a purely hawthorn vodka I would strain it after 4 weeks then continue to store the liquid until it matures. However just a handful doesn’t seem to make the schnapps too murky if you do leave it for the full three months, and if it is a little cloudy you can always strain it through a coffee paper to clear it.
- Drink in tiny glasses as a lovely winter evening treat!