My sweetheart acquired a beautiful antique silver and glass hip flask. Like my perfume bottle, and my silvery thimbles, it was made in Birmingham’s silver district, circa 1926. Infamous object, made for slipping into a trouser pocket or tucking into a garter belt. The silver base can be removed to use as a cup to share with good company, and the top is attached with a clever hinge that twists to open. It was a little tarnished and the cork inside needed replacing, so after about a year I got round to repairing it.
Absurdly, because I make our toothpaste, I never have any of the proper stuff around to polish my silver. I remedied this at a little shop in North London, having spotted a bit of convincing graphic design.
Reading the ingredients I could see it would make an excellent silver polish, but I won’t be brushing my teeth with it. Especially when I discovered its shocking pink contents! Perfect polish, no one shall mistake it for anything else, and yet it is arguably non-toxic. It smells like a freshly scrubbed hospital. Simply rub a bit on the silver with a soft cloth, the tarnish will come off as dull black marks onto the fabric. Rinse and polish with a clean cloth.
Beauty. It is awfully tempting to fill the hip flask with one of our homemade liqueurs and take it out on a date with my sweetheart. Also beneficial for drumming up one’s courage for something nervous, I should think, if I’ve watched enough old films. He’ll be lucky if I don’t make off with it.
Quince is another hedgerow fruit I’ve never tasted. Someone got to my dear friend’s favourite wild tree and picked it clean, so I bought a few.
They cut just like apples and pears.
Quince jelly would be so good. Very yellow, we imagine to ourselves. However we are overwhelmed with moving in a couple of weeks; the wonderful house in the countryside is ours! So jelly must wait til next year. Inspired by The Wonderful Weekend Book, we’ve set the quince to soak in brandy instead, waiting for the holidays. Star anise in one jar, cinnamon in another, vanilla beans all round. Oh, the sloe gin has turned a rosy shade after a day, and all the sloes have risen. Nettles infuse beside all of these, I shall be drinking it in hopes of finally getting over a very bad cough, and surviving the coming move.
Sloe gin is an enticing delicacy I’d heard of in snippets of conversation, caught in passing on a walk or while watching one of those British shows that make you want to move to the countryside. Slow gin? For a long while I wondered what sloes were. Some kind of sea vegetable? Roots? I met sloes for the first time over email, a surprisingly good medium for introductions that lead to passionate affairs, but that is another story. Our dear friend Sonny found the sloeberries in profusion, and sent me this photograph.
We spent this afternoon introducing the sloes to the gin. These have seen a light frost, so we didn’t prick the skins, just poured about an equal weight in sugar over them and filled the jar with the booze.
River Cottage Preserves has a simple recipe. I’ll keep shaking the jar to dissolve the sugar, and later on we’ll taste it, weekly it says, well, that shouldn’t be too much of a chore. In a few weeks the sloes can be strained out, and then we must be patient for as long as possible before we drink it. A whole eighteen months sounds like an eternity.
After traveling so much the last couple of weeks, we finally had a day at home to take care of details. I see a thousand things demanding my attention, but once I’d restored the house a little I turned to the elderflower still infusing, neglected, golden in vodka.
Before elderflower season came to an end, we picked just a few more flowerheads. In a kilner jar we drowned them in vodka. There they stayed, infusing for the summer. These many months later, I strained out the flowers and added sugar to sterile bottles.
Then the children helped me to ladle in the infusion. I’ll give it a gentle shake now and then, to help the sugar dissolve. My sweetheart and I will taste the elderflower liqueur before winter.
Hopefully next year we’ll catch the elderberries as well.