I have only recently started making Blackberry Gin. Having had some initial success with Elderflower Gin and Rhubarb Gin (which is great for cocktails!) last year, I started to think about other seasonal fruits that I could use to produce delicious home-made gin! I have always been a keen blackberry picker but, in the past, have used them for jam and also cakes, puddings and desserts such as Blackberry Muffins, Blackberry Crumble and Blackberry Fool. However, it occurred to me that they might taste pretty good as a flavouring for gin.
Late August and early September is blackberry season in the Cotswolds. On my daily dog walks, I see the brambles growing rapidly during early summer. By mid-summer, their flowers are turning to fruit. In late summer, within a week or so, they suddenly seem to be covered in hundreds of juicy blackberries. You can, of course, buy blackberries all year round in supermarkets these days. However, there is nothing like picking your own. Even people who would never forage for any other kind of wild produce have memories of going blackberrying. Where I live, it is a pretty popular thing to do. On my relatively short drive to work last week, I saw no less than three groups of people, equipped with plastic containers and thick gloves, picking the blackberries that grow along the roadside.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the popularity of flavoured gins, including Blackberry Gin, produced by niche producers and selling for a premium in supermarkets. I think home-made and traditional is best in terms of both flavour and price, so why not try making your own? It is really easy!
Making your own Blackberry Gin is so easy and the end result is a delicious reminder of blackberry season that you can enjoy all year around!
450 g blackberries
225 g caster sugar
150 ml good quality gin
Wash the blackberries thoroughly.
Mix the blackberries thoroughly with the sugar in a large bowl.
Spoon the blackberries and sugar into a sterilised jar. Leave for 24 hours to allow the blackberries to macerate in the sugar and release their juices.
Add the gin to the jar of blackberries and sugar. Shake thoroughly to ensure it is mixed.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for four weeks.
At the end of that time, the gin is ready to drink! Strain the gin into sterilised bottles through a muslin cloth held in a funnel and it will keep for approximately six months.
You can sterilise your jar by washing it in warm, soapy water, rinsing well and then drying off for 15 minutes in an oven set at 140C/120C fan/gas 1.
Although it only takes 15 minutes preparation time, you will need to allow 24 hours for the blackberries to macerate in the sugar and, once you have added the gin, it will take a further four weeks to allow the flavour to develop.
You can scale this recipe up or down according to how many blackberries you feel like picking! Add half as much weight in sugar as your weight of blackberries. The amount of gin in ml should be one third of the weight of blackberries.
Many people, including me, use these fragrant flowers to make Elderflower Cordial but they can also be used to make beautiful floral-flavoured Elderflower Gin. Unlike some flavoured gins, such as Rhubarb Gin, which take a number of weeks to mature before they can be drunk, Elderflower Gin is ready the next day! It is great on its own or with a mixer, such as tonic, or with sparkling wine.
Elderflowers are a good starting point for new “foragers” as they are so widely available and easily recognisable. They are the blossoms of the elder (Sambucus nigra) which is a small tree or shrub commonly found in woodlands and gardens throughout the UK. The small creamy-white flowers are arranged in big clusters and bloom in late May or early June. In autumn, they turn into purple elderberries which also have a range of culinary uses.
Traditionally used to make rhubarb crumbles or rhubarb fools, its sweet and sour taste makes a wonderful flavouring for gin. Love it or hate it, rhubarb is now in season. Cheap to buy in the shops and probably over-abundant if you have a rhubarb crown in your in your garden.
In the past few years, there has been an increase in the popularity of flavoured gins, including rhubarb, produced by niche producers and selling for a premium in supermarkets. I think home-made and traditional is best in terms of both flavour and price, so why not try making your own? It is simple to make and, if you do it yourself, and you can play with flavour combinations to produce fantastic variations such as rhubarb and vanilla gin, rhubarb and ginger gin or rhubarb and orange gin. You may think about other combinations – it is all about producing something that suits your taste!
(If you don’t drink alcohol – or are looking for a drink to suit teetotallers or children – check out my recipe for Rhubarb Cordial)
Adding the flavour of fresh rhubarb to gin creates a fantastic drink that is good either on its own or as a base for cocktails.
Ingredients (basic recipe):
1 kg rhubarb stalks
400 g caster sugar
800 ml good quality gin
If you wish to try different flavours you could add one of the following additions: 1 vanilla pod or 5 slices of fresh root ginger or 5 pieces of thin orange peel
Wash the rhubarb stalks thoroughly. Cut into 3 cm pieces.
Mix the rhubarb pieces thoroughly with the sugar in a large bowl.
Spoon the rhubarb and sugar into a sterilised jar. Leave for 24 hours to allow the rhubarb to macerate in the sugar and release its juices.
At this stage, you can add additional flavour ingredients if you wish. Simply add a vanilla pod, fresh root ginger slices or thin orange peel (taken from an orange using a potato peeler avoiding the pith) to the jar.
Add the gin to the jar of rhubarb and sugar. Shake thoroughly to ensure it is mixed.
Leave in a cool, dry, dark place for four weeks.
At the end of that time, the gin is ready to drink! You can strain the gin into sterilised bottles through a muslin cloth held in a funnel and it will keep for approximately six months. Alternatively, you can leave the rhubarb pieces in the gin but, if you do this, you must drink it quickly as it will turn bitter after a couple of months.
Although it only takes 20 minutes preparation time, you will need to allow 24 hours for the rhubarb to macerate in the sugar and, once you have added the gin, it will take a further four weeks to allow the flavour to develop.
Rhubarb Gin can be drunk on its own, combined with soda or tonic or used as a based for Rhubarb Gin Cocktails. It is also good poured over vanilla ice-cream to make a quick pudding.