Recipe: Make our strawberry and rhubarb vodka
- Credit: Charlotte Smith-Jarvis
As we enter mid-summer, we’re getting into prime preserving time. All those precious allotment harvests and backyard crops will soon be coming into fruition. And they need eating (or ‘putting up’) quick. From rows of berries destined for the jam pot, to tiny cucumbers ripe for plunging into a dill-infused vinegar liquor – there are endless uses for our produce.
My own garden has transformed seemingly overnight into a fruit jungle. The walls are covered in recycled pallets stuffed with French and Kentish strawberry runners. Caribbean chillies grow in a raised bed. There are pots of honeyberries and pink blueberries. A French pink currant bush. And, at the front, cherry, gage, apple and plum trees.
“You could set up a PYO farm,” my hubby laughed as I put the 60 or so strawberry plants to bed in spring. Well, he’s not laughing now. We need just step out the kitchen door to experience the honeyed perfume of wild-tasting Mara de Bois berries.
A few of the strawbs, alongside chunky summer stems of rhubarb from my dad’s allotment, have found their way into a divine drink this week. A concoction that, mixed now and left to party for a few weeks, will end up being the fruitiest, prettiest pre-dinner sip.
It’s a take on a rumtopf. This time-honoured German tradition sees the finest of the year’s fruit, from spring through to autumn, layered with sugar in an earthenware pot, and topped up regularly with glugs of rum (or other booze). At the end of the year the spirit is siphoned off and drunk merrily around the table, while the devilishly high ABV fruits are eaten with a spoon or perhaps layered over a dessert.
I’ve used smooth Russian vodka as a base for this week’s recipe, and I won’t be hanging around until Christmas to pop the lid. Oh no. In mid-July there will be a final shake and sieve before my friends and I stir the sweet end product into English fizz.
It’s also stunning drizzled over fresh strawberries with a touch of elderflower cordial. It really is the spirit of summer.
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Strawberry and rhubarb vodka
(Makes a 1lt bottle)
200g caster sugar
Peel of 1 lemon
250g strawberries (hulled weight) cut into halves and quarters
250g rhubarb, cut into thin slices
Place the fruit and peel in a large kilner container with the sugar. Seal the lid and give it a good shake. Leave for 24 hours, which will encourage the juices to seep out. Now add the vodka. Replace the lid and shake. Leave in a cool dark place (to help keep the pink colour) for four weeks, shaking every day. Then pass through muslin over a sieve into a bowl with a pouring lip. Strain into a sterilised 1lt bottle.
Store somewhere cool and keep in the fridge once opened.