Saturday, 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve

New Year’s Eve
Here we are on the Eve of a New Year and hopefully all the promises it will bring...
Over the last few days I have been perusing various seed catalogues-one of my favourite occupations-busy planning for next year’s harvest. As much as I would love to grow everything I see, I have to be realistic. I live in hope rather than expectation!
 My very small garden is not possibly in the best of positions for growing vegetables as we live at the top of a hill with a very steeply terraced, North West facing garden and prone to much, much rain with mountains to the West and North. Oh, and did I mention that much of it is in the shade most of the day and we are surrounded by a wood and thus prone to a continuous attach by voracious slugs, snails, pigeons, squirrels and the odd wandering sheep...
 The soil is claggy and clay like and rather shallow before it hits rock. We have to be careful if we add extra nutrients as it tends to either attract moles and/or it simply slips downhill with the excess rain. Thus most of the vegetables need to be grown in pots and containers.
So, I have to be very creative with my plans to grow vegetables and be ever the optimist...
I would therefore like to wish anybody who comes along and reads this blog a small glass of New Year’s cheer and to think positive thoughts about their future growing and eating of nature’s bounty.
To celebrate the New Year, this Autumn I made my first attempt at a Cassis Liqueur with this warming blackcurrant infused vodka. My grateful thanks to my friend K who generously allowed me to pick her blackcurrants from her garden in the Usk valley whilst she was on holiday. The recipe I used is a work in progress subject to my friends’ critiques. For some indeterminable reason they require frequent tasters in order to pass comments...
My recipe is simplicity itself...
Cassis Liqueur
Freshly picked blackcurrants 
Blackcurrant leaves
Castor sugar
As this recipe depends so much on the quantity of blackcurrants you collect, I just have a very simple recipe...
Sterilize some large Kilmer jars-either in the dishwasher or oven.
Place a blackcurrant leaf on the bottom of each jar and fill slightly with blackcurrants-no need to top and tail. Add another blackcurrant leaf then carry on adding blackcurrants until the jar is a third filled. Give the jar a little shake to settle the blackcurrants then add some castor sugar to cover the blackcurrants for a good 1½ to 2cm. Then very gently pour in the vodka to the top of the jar and seal. Place in a cool dark place and gently shake once a day for the first 2 weeks then every few days after that until the sugar appears to have dissolved. Leave for a good 3 months to mature. When ready to decant, gently pour out through a sieve lined with muslin into cooled sterilised bottles. Don’t waste the remaining blackcurrants- after topping and tailing they can be used either straight away or popped into the freezer for later to make some lovely boozy puddings!
The resulting Cassis is wonderful as a liqueur or can be mixed with white wine to make a Kir or with some bubbly to make a Kir Royale.

Happy New Year Everybody!


  1. I can see that we are going to get on famously! Your Cassis Vodka is very similar to my Sloe Gin. Why the leaves though? Don't they go mushy?

  2. Thanks Mark! I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never made Sloe Gin so I will look up your recipe and give it a go if I can find some sloes next Autumn. There are masses of Elderberry growing in the wood-wonder if I can use them for something when the time comes? Regarding the cassis, the recipes I found suggested using the leaves. By placing them under the blackcurrants they don’t rise to the surface and go mushy which mine didn’t and certainly the leaves have a lovely, fragrant blackcurrant smell-as do the roots of blackcurrant bushes if you ever have to dig them up-though possibly I won’t be using those in the mixture!


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