Thursday, 26 July 2012

Welbeck Part Two-A Tale of An Eccentric Duke And His Underground Ballroom And Glorious Jam Making And Delicious Fruit Liqueurs...

As the sun is now putting in a much overdue appearance, then the fruit and vegetables in the garden can finally romp away and grow...

The keen gardener then wants to capture all that wondrous bounty and save its deliciousness to eat later on in the year when the pickings are somewhat more sparse.

A great way of preserving fruit is by making jams, jellies and- for those that care to imbibe in a little alcoholic libation-a decadent fruit liqueur...

But first, a little tale of an eccentric Duke...

The 5th Duke of Portland (1800-1879) was a quiet, contemplative man but just a touch eccentric...

Described by all, as ‘a little introverted’, he did not encourage visitors to his vast estates. 

Even his servants were instructed to not acknowledge his presence and he communicated to them by writing...even to the extent that each of his rooms each had a letter box to send and receive any written communications...

He generally ventured outside only in darkness and if he did go out by day, would wear two overcoats with high collars and carry a large umbrella which he would hide behind if addressed.

He took over the Welbeck Estate on the death of his father, the 4th Duke, and subsequently made substantial changes. Not least were the series of underground rooms and tunnels totalling 15 miles in length. 

He had built various underground rooms including a Billiard room, a Library, an Observatory and a huge Ballroom which supposedly contained a hydraulic lift to carry at least 20 people to the surface.

In the main house-above ground- he retreated to just 4-5 rooms which he stripped of furniture but had a commode placed in each room in the corner...

All rooms both in his private suite in the main house and those below ground were painted in pink.

His life is absolutely fascinating and well worth further perusal...

Back to the Cookery Course...

Now I have made various jams and jellies for a number of years and in more recent years some fruit liqueurs...but there is always room for improvement and consequently I signed up for the Summer Preserves and Liqueurs at The Cookery School at The Artisan School Of Food at Welbeck.

In my previous post I described the recipe for Sweet Chilli Jam.

Also on the course we made a succulent and sweet Apricot Jam and a rather delicious Recurrent Jelly. If anyone is interested in these recipes then do let me know and I’ll add it to a future post. 

Jams and jellies are truly wondrous and so easy to make and then enjoy for the rest of the year...

And what did I learn from the course that I didn’t know before??

  •  Make sure you wash and thoroughly dry the fruit before cooking. Any lingering water will invite mould to develop.

  • To maintain excellent fruit flavour, make small quantities at a time.

  •  This will ensue that the mixture will come to the setting point much quicker and thus preserve more of the fruit flavour. The quicker to setting point, the better the flavour.

  •  Use a digital thermometer probe for more accurate temperature takings but make sure you don’t touch it on the bottom of the pan but just slightly above it.

I also invested in a new jam straining bag and stand that we used on the course and highly recommended it is too!- my previous one had a tendency to collapse!

Recommended Bag and Stand from

and the cheap but excellent digital thermometer to give more accurate temperature guides,



And finally... the recipe for making a fruit liqueur...

Making a fruit liqueur is ridiculously easy and once made, can be put in pretty glass containers and given as very welcome Christmas gifts.

In the past I have simply thrown the quantities together and, I am thankful to say, the results have been certainly rather quaffable...

However, today I would like to share the recipe I was given on the course-just slightly tweaked by myself, for you to make your own.

Blackcurrant Liqueur

Use a 1 litre Kilner jar-
Ensure the jar is clean and sterilised-I put mine through the dishwasher and then dry off upside-down in a warm oven (minus the rubber seal) until needed. Remove carefully from the oven as the glass will be hot. Once filled then add the rubber seal to the lid and close.


300g blackcurrants
150g caster sugar-caster is better as the finer grainer will dissolve easier
Vodka to top up the jar-I used the cheapest supermarket one when on special offer


Wash the fruit and dry well

Mix together the fruit and sugar in a large, 1 litre Kilner jar

Pour the vodka over the fruit up to the maximum line on the jar.

Seal and store in a cool and dark place.

 Gently shake every day for the first 2-3 weeks until all the sugar is dissolved.

After that, gently shake occasionally.

After 3 months, decant into smaller bottles and drink!

You can alternatively serve straight from the jar!

Don’t waste the boozy fruit but serve them with vanilla ice-cream or put them on top of a sheet of some flaky pastry, bake quickly in a hot oven and then serve with Crème Fraiche or some delicious Clotted Cream!

This recipe could be used with other fruit such as raspberries, blueberries, strawberries etc. -or a mixture of the available Summer fruit. 

I cannot more highly recommend this recipe. It is so, so, easy-not really a recipe at all-but the results are amazing and absolutely delicious!!

If you decant and then bottle the results in some pretty bottles then the resulting gifts given to friends are always very, very gratefully received!

Seen below are examples of three of my homemade fruit liqueurs- Raspberry, Strawberry and Blackcurrant...

Until next time, drink wisely and well...


  1. Alcohol em lovely the Duke would have approved

  2. I have just found your lovely blog via Codlins and Cream.The fruit liquers sound delicious.

    As a little girl, back in the 1960s, I visited Wellbeck with my family when we went to stay with our Lincolnshire cousins. I vividly remember walking a short way into the Tunnel with my cousin and our Dads. It was utterly dark black and quite terrifying. Turning round and going back into the light was a great relief. For years my cousin and I would make play tunnels and frighten ourselves with "Going back to Wellbeck"!

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by-lovely to have a new visitor and thank you also for ‘following’. So nice to hear from someone who has actually visited the tunnels-sounds very scary!! Apparently the occasional skylight to them can still be spotted in the grounds...

  3. Must admit, you had me at "decadent fruit liqueur"! This is great...I have never tried making anything like this and I think I am going to have to! 3 months, though?? Not sure I can wait - hehe! Thanks for sharing this :)

    1. Hi Ali,

      Thanks for stopping by! Do give this a go as it is so incredibly easy but everyone is very impressed with the finished result!

  4. I made a plum liquer using a very similar recipe and I was really pleased with how well it worked. Thanks for the jam making tips - all new to me too and I am seriously coveting the straining bag!

    1. Hi Liz,

      Mmm a plum liqueur-that sounds rather nice...come the autumn I’m sure some of my kind friends would ‘donate’ some of their home-grown plums for such a worthy cause!!

  5. Jams and preserves... Very good way to extend the enjoyment period of the fruits of your labor... I posted a very simple recipe on the red perilla some time ago... hope it helps...

    1. Hi Lrong,

      Yes thank you again for very kindly posting the recipe for the perilla I wonder if I could make a liqueur of it too...

  6. That straining-bag with the extending feet is really clever. I usually use a muslin bag suspended from the legs of an up-ended four-legged stool!

    1. Hi Mark,

      Yep I’ve done that too with an up-ended stool and also had one tied to a cupboard handle in the past!! Have to say I really like this stand and bag-nice and stable. The legs turn sideways to make it easy to store too.

  7. You must have the longest title for a blog post I have ever come across. Your preserves look wonderful and I love that straining bag - I usually use a large colander and J-cloths - nevertheless they work really well.

    1. Hi Elaine,

      Thanks for stopping by. Yes now I think about it, the title may be a ‘touch’ long...

      Love the idea of the colander and J-cloths-sometimes the simplest of ideas are the best!

  8. Had no idea Blackcurrant Liqueur was so easy to make.

  9. I cannot believe you also make fruit liqueurs (or fruit infused vodkas, as I call them because mine are not always sweet). The black currant one is the best one I have ever made in my life and also the favourite of all my guests. This year I will make the raspberry vodka for the first time. I wait for its price to go down a bit.
    I love this straining bag and I have been meaning to buy this kind of thermometer for such a long time... Thanks for the amazon links.

    1. Hi Sissi,

      Yes guests always seem to enjoy them!

      Glad you liked the links for the equipment-I always feel it good to get something if someone you know has used and recommended it...

  10. I may have to ignore the shipping cost and spring for one of those straining stands! My last one rusted out from an over acidic jelly... Beautiful jars of summer colors for savoring

    1. Yes the straining bag is nice and stable and I don’t have to worry about the whole thing collapsing if I leave it overnight-always a bonus!!

  11. That Duke sounds quite eccentric. I can't understand why you would want to build underground rooms when the view from above ground is so much better. What a strange man. I'll have to google him and find out what's happened to his estates. I love your strainer gadget - must get one! Pleased to hear the dark cloud has lifted of the UK and you are now enjoying some long-overdue sunshine xx

    1. Hi Charlie,

      You spoke too soon...we are now back to rain...
      Yes that Duke was a strange but fascinating man!

  12. I'd say the Duke was a little anti-social . . .

    Love all the information on your fruit liqueurs, that's something I've never tried . . . hmmm

    1. Its funny that for all his ‘difficulties’ with interacting with people by all accounts he was very keen to make sure all his workers on the vast estate had a decent wage and good working conditions and consequently he was very well respected by them. Interesting chap...

  13. There's so much here I love! I'm definitely getting the strainer from Amazon, for one thing. I love making jelly, and I haven't been able to rig up anything that really works for me. And I'm going to start making some fruit liqueurs. What a terrific idea. And I had no idea that the flavor of jams, etc are best when you reach the set point sooner. Great, great information. And about the Duke, he'd love the texting world I'm thinking...

    1. Hi Susan,

      Really glad you enjoyed the post! Do have a go at making the fruit liqueurs-its so easy. Your comment about the Duke and texting made me giggle...I now have this image of him sat in one of his rooms texting away to the outside world...

  14. wow that jam strainer looks like a brilliant piece of equipment to have, esp since I've been up to quite a bit of preserve and pickle-making these days!

    1. Hi Shu Han,

      Yep-I would recommend it with all your wonderful cooking!!

  15. Great tips for making jams & jellies, GD. And fantastic idea about making fruit-flavored liquor, such a time saver, too. In but a couple months, instead of wasting time going to a fruit market to buy a handful of raspberries or blackberries to mke cocktails, just grab a bottle of this. Genius! :)

    1. Hi John,

      Do give this ago-have to say in all my years of making this, I’ve not been disappointed!!
      Once the liquor has been made you can use the fruit for all manner of sweet desserts or simply serve with some luscious vanilla ice-cream!


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