“What is more mortifying than to feel that you have missed the plum for want of courage to shake the tree?” – Logan Pearsall Smith
What better way to celebrate my 50th blog post than with a forager’s tipple – Spiced Plum Vodka! I’ve been a bit disappointed with the fruit on Walsall’s nature reserves this year, as the weird weather played havoc with the bees, which in turn played havoc with fruit pollination, so the pickings out there are slim – but if you’re keen-eyed and time it right, all you need for a litre of this liqueur is 500g of plums (say enough plums, whole, to fill two pint glasses). The recipe is very adaptable, and you can add or take away spices at any time – or even use shop-bought plums that would work just as well. My plan is to strain this concoction at the end of October and slip in a vanilla pod for the last 6 weeks of enfusing, but you could equally add ginger, cardamom, or even black peppercorns if you are adventurous…
Recipe for Spiced Wild Plum Vodka:
Ingredients: 1 litre of no-frills vodka (absolutely no point in using the expensive stuff here, but equally you don’t want stuff that tastes like paint thinner!); whole spices (Cinnamon, Star Anise & Cloves); 250g of sugar (unrefined) and 500g of plums (whole).
Step 1: Wash and sterilise a 1.5 / 2 litre kilner jar.
DONT cut this step out – sterilising is easy and you can do it while you gather your other ingredients together. I wash my jars in hot soapy water (as hot as I can stand) and place them (after removing the rubber seals!) straight onto the bottom shelf in a COLD oven. Close the oven and turn it on to around 80 degrees C. Once the oven has come up to temperature, turn it off and let it cool down. Your jars are now sterilised.
Step 2: Pricking of the Plums
This is very time consuming, but is essential. Take each plum and prod it all over with a fork, so that it is covered in punctures (about 5-10 stabs per plum should do it). Now add your plums to your jar.
Step 3: Select your Whole Spices.
Its better to err on the side of caution with some spices like cloves and star anise, as they can be overpowering. I start with 1/2 a star anise and 3 or 4 cloves, with some shards of cinnamon sticks (broken bits are fine!). You may have to undertake the laborious task of occasionally tasting your vodka over the coming weeks to see if you want to add more spices (A hardship, I know.)
Pour in a litre of vodka and 250g of sugar. Give it all a big stir with a spoon to dissolve the sugar (or shake it if you’re brave and trust your level of coordination – I don’t!). You’ll need to shake / stir it up every couple of days until the sugar has dissolved.
Step 5: Testing, Straining and Bottling
Keep your jars in a cool, dark place (kitchen cupboard?) Taste your vodka after about a month and decide if you want to add more of anything (spices, etc). When its ready to bottle (mid-December), strain it and pour into sterilised bottles & label. Perfect presents for Christmas!
Well, hope you enjoy it! You can use this recipe as the basis for Sloe Gin later in the autumn (same quantities of sloes to alcohol & sugar, but usually without the spices!), and I’ll be posting soon on how to do fruit vodkas with soft berries – no laborious pricking of fruit and an inventive use for a rolling pin!