Friday, 17th September, 2021

[Day 550]

The day started well for us when we got a phone call from our University of Birmingham friend who was enquiring whether we were going to be in the park later on today. Indeed we were but after a delayed start (chatting with our domestic help whose day it was today on a Friday) we finally made it to the park. After a lovely chat, we bumped into the husband of our friend who had just recently been discharged from hospital and whose wedding anniversary it was yesterday. We were delighted to get the news that our friend is recovering from her little ‘heart incident’ and was discharged last Sunday. Now, though, she is taking it easy and having to adapt to a slightly lighter routine – I fear that her days of shovelling a ton of topsoil into place before breakfast are probably now over. And so we progressed home for lunch where we were due to try some of the ‘giant’ fish fingers (made of cod) that Waitrose sell on their fish counter. This turned out fine, particularly when accomapnied by some tenderstem broccoli.

After lunch, I knew that it was time for our damson gin preparation to commence. I have a little record book in which I have recorded my yields from one year to another plus details of the recipes which have proved their worth over the years. In particular, I need to know the correct proportions of damsons, sugar and gin and the quantitites appropriate for each size of kilner jar that I possess. I have calculated that this year, I am going to purchase three litres of gin and three litres of vodka – naturally, I buy the very cheapest I can find. Having done a tour of supermrkets to assess what prices and quantities were available, I finished off in my local Aldi where I purchased my three litres of gin and three litres of vodka for this year’s manufacture. I always feel a bit guilty when I take this volume of alcohol through out supermarket tills but it always amazes me when the checkout operators process this lot without so much as a smile or a comment – I wonder of there are lots of people buying this quantity of booze and how they consume it if they are not also in the business of making home made gin-based products.

In the late afternion, I started this year’s preparation of the damson gin (and damson vodka, which I am making for the first time this year.) The fruit has to be prepard by making gashes in each fruit so that the gin/vodka can penetrate the flesh and extract its essences. For this, I use an old-fashioned tin opener which has the kind of blade which might be likened to a chick’s egg tooth but much sharper.I hold the fruit in the left hand and rotate it whilst making gashes with the implement held in my right hand – if this sounds complicated, it is actuually incredibly efficient and I managed to get all 550 fruits gashed withoin an hour and a half. Then I have to sterilise my kilner jars and I use Boots baby sterlising fluid for this – one bottle lasts me for years and you fill the jars with cold water, add the sterilising fluid and leave it dor 20-30 minutes followd by a quick rinse. Now for the filling itself I use an old yoghurt pot which, if filled to the absolute brim, brings you very close to the 450 grams needed per jar. Naturally, my kitchen scales are heavilg involved in all of this. Then in goes 350 grams of white granulated sugar followed by three quarters of a litre of either gin or vodka. Each jar requires a vigorous shake (to dissolve the sugar) and basically that is all there is to it. I inspect the stock once a week and give each a quick shake but I didn’t do it last year and it didn’t seem to make any difference. All in all, I filled 9 kilner jars with three-quarters litre of spirit which is obviously nearly 7 litres (or practically a gallon and a half if that i what you prefer) Straining and bottling can be a bit fiddly but that is three months away yet – hopefully, I will have a supply ready for the Christmas festivities. I am about a week later this year than normal – on the other hand, the fruit seemed bigger, riper and with a skin that was less fibrous than past years so perhaps the week or so delay in the preparation will not matter so much. Now I have to make sure that I have an adequate supply of those little wine bottles (and if you go out for the day then things like elderflower pressé get served out of them). These are about 20cl and like gold dust and I hoard them whenever I see them – I should have prepared enough for about 30 little presents this year.