Monday, 26 January 2009

Home Made Liqueurs, Sgroppino and Bas-Armagnac

Oh joy, all the liqueurs we made in the summer and autumn are maturing around now. I always make sloe gin if there are sloes to be picked, usually around the end October but this year yielded a poor harvest and what few there were disappeared quickly. So I had to raid my sister’s freezer for some 2007 berries. However, freezing seems to help in this case and the finished drink is indistinguishable from previous vintages. By the way, if you are put off by the idea of using a needle to prick each and every berry before adding the sugar and gin, forget it, use the prickly side of a cheese grater to run over the berries on a baking tray, works a treat and saves hours of time. In fact, it’s the only use I ever found for that side of the grater! I thought I’d try plum gin as well, as usual one of our plum trees, an Early Rivers type, produced more plums than we could eat, jam, pickle, bottle, cook and give away. The drink produced is less strong as the plums are juicer, which dilutes the alcohol, but the advantage is you can place a plum in the bottom of the glass to eat.
Also, I like to make limoncello, as I use it as an ingredient in Sgroppino (dialect in Venice for a lemon sherbet digestif) along with prosecco, vodka, lemon ice cream. Like sorbet it cleans the palette, but this concoction sends you to the stratosphere. I make my limoncello by using the rind only (no pith) of 10 large, unwaxed, organic lemons, placing them in a bowl with 50cl of pure grain vodka and putting the whole, covered with cling film, in full sun for 7-10 days, not easy to forecast in the UK, to bleach out the aromatic lemon oils. Then add sugar to taste and bottle.
We inherited four blackcurrant bushes when we took over our plot at the allotment, so maybe we could try cassis this year or morello cherries in armagnac, which we made once in more prosperous times. Nick and I have been dreaming and plotting about revisiting La Bastide d’ Armagnac and calling into see the delightful and educational M. le Baron, Philippe de Bouglon at the Chateau du Prada, who makes dam fine Bas-Armagnac in the most glorious surroundings. He is most generous with his time and will take you though the many vintages, while tasting using a glass vial he keeps attached to a ribbon around his neck to dip in the huge oak barrels. You can see the baron’s pad at and le Baron himself at man, I think you’d agree, who looks as if he enjoys his own products.

4 comments: said...

Wow--this all sounds great! I've thought about making limoncello, even though I've yet to taste it. I love your posts and tweets. Reminds me regularly of summer to come. I live in New England in the US. We are deep into winter--as in at least a foot of snow on the ground and below freezing temps! I enjoy your posts and tweets!

Jo said...

I thought I was losing my scavenging skills when I couldn't find any sloes last year! (Glad it wasn't just me :-) ) If we get a hot spell this summer I will try the Limoncello recipe, I can't believe it's really that easy!

Philip Bewley said...

Your posts simply transport me. There is a giddy excitement to this one, the delight in the ingredients, and the anticipation of the cocktail itself.
M. le baron at the Chateau du Prada looks as he should, indeed. I feel as though I have met him from your description of him with his glass vial, dipping into oak barrels. Limoncello is a treat; we serve it in very narrow glass cylinders, chilled. Your descriptions of these homemade liquores have such a romance and delight about them that you have inspired us to try this ourselves... Now, cassis or morello cherries in armagnac!

Woodland Fay said...

Wow, Philip what a generous comment. Like M.le Baron, who has such passion and enthusiasm for his product, I try, myself, to bring as of much of that conviction and zeal to my humble culinary endeavours. And lets face it, if you love eating and drinking, what's better than cooking and brewing? Many thanks, comments like these keep me pursuing this writing lark!