This time of year, our foraging fingers start a’ twitching in anticipation of relieving the hedgerows, trees and bushes of their bounteous goods. This year’s harvest looks particularly plentiful, judging by the proliferance of fruity jewels that are shining from the hedgerows and dangling off our fruit trees. Our normally sparse Kingston Black apple tree has developed an alarming stoop due to the stack of swelling fruits weighing off its branches, and even the allotment bramble bushes – usually stripped bare by the local pigeon population – are still laden with blackberries, proving too plentiful for our avid avians to contend with. “Help yourselves, we’re done”, they coo, through purple-stained beaks, their eyelids heavy and content.
We plan to push some of our fruity bounty into jams and press them into pie-filling purees, but most of our foraged goods will end up plunging into booze in some form or another. Some of Dorset’s finest drinks makers have also been plundering the hedgerows, boosting their beverages with a bevvy of berries and fruits.
Commercially-oriented, mainstream cider makers have been churning out fruit flavoured ciders for quite some time, but now the craft side of the market have jumped on board, bringing a touch of finesse to a berry-soaked market. Divert your lips to a pint of West Milton’s Purple Haze – a mouth-puckering, delicious blackcurrant cider with a gentle sparkle.
Lyme Bay Winery’s Damson Wine is a great grape alternative – it’s a maroon-hued, juicy booze with bags of dark fruit flavours and subtle hints of pepper.
Gyle 59 – one of our favorite Dorset brewers – are never shy on casting fruity ingredients into their beers. Their Elderberry Stout is a potent brew, cask matured and bursting with jammy flavours. Go easy though… at 7.3% ABV, you might wish to postpone any planned foraging expeditions for a nice snooze on the sofa.
Blackberry brandy liqueur recipe
One of the most popular recipes on our website is for this blackberry brandy, as eager foragers look for something other than crumbles and jam for their bags full of blackberries. You can use the same quantity of gin or vodka for your spirit base but we think the fruitier depths of a brandy works best.
To make, simply grab yourself a 700ml bottle of brandy, summon into action 320g of blackberries from your bounty and weigh out 160g of white sugar.
Put all ingredients into a clean, sterilised jar with a tight fitting lid and shake. Set aside somewhere cool and dark and shake daily over the next week or two until the sugar has dissolved. A few more shakes every other week won’t go amiss, but don’t get upset if you forget.
As with all such liqueurs, the longer you leave the berries to infuse, the more fruity, mellow and delicious your drink will be. Three months is usually adequate for blackberries, but if you can’t resist temptation an earlier unveiling is fine. When ready, strain into clean bottles and sup it neat, drizzle over a cold dessert or send a few shots into your favourite fruity cocktail.