brandied peaches

When I find the very last of the summer fruit is going, I always wish I’d preserved just a bit more of it. Even the last two peaches will do! By now I think you know my solution. When it comes to the final peaches of the year, there’s nothing better to do than to introduce them to some brandy.

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Charmed, I’m sure. Don’t worry if the peaches are long gone or not yet arrived where you are – any fruit will do. Quince would be perfect! Like ginny plums and drowned cherries, like elderflower liqueur or raspberry vodka, like oh, oh how I miss it, sloe gin, all you need is a bit of sugar and some kind of hard liquor. A clean jar. I sliced these peaches, poured half a cup of sugar over them, and filled the jar with brandy to cover the fruit. The longer you wait, the better it gets. The peaches will be intoxicatingly brandied, and the brandy will be exquisitely peachy. With the astonishingly early autumn storms we’ve been getting, summer seems a long way off. Brandied peaches will be a fine reminder on a cold winter’s night.

nettle tincture

Following my inspiring visit to the apothecary, I was determined to make a tincture.

tincture © elisa rathje 2011

Being impatient, I got started with enough vodka to cover some nettles that I’d wildcrafted and dried last spring. These are fine, but not ideal.

tincture © elisa rathje 2011

Ideal is fresh, new growth, which arrives in early spring and early autumn. Once we’d had a chance to catch our breath after settling back into the old cottage, I went out to pick some nettles. The bright hearty leaves look like just the thing for a strong tincture. Don’t forget heavy gloves when foraging for the fierce things!

tincture © elisa rathje 2011

I filtered out the dried nettles, which had had a good long infusion in alcohol, and poured the infusion over the fresh leaves. Sort of a double infusion, nearly. I had to add a bit more vodka to cover. Now I’m shaking the jar daily, and will probably do this for a good month before straining off, bottling, and using my nettle tincture. A dropperful will be perfect when I haven’t had time to make the infusions from the dry leaves that the children like so much, and when I just need a little bit extra to escape autumn colds. We’re having a bit of a summer revival this week, so that all feels like a long time off! Next I’m hoping to find enough rosehips for a few bottles of cordial, to store away with our winter remedies.

cherry liqueur

Last summer I had the good sense to put some cherries in a jar, tip in some sugar, and cover the lot with vodka before I left for England.

cherry liqueur © elisa rathje 2011

Summer in a jar. Those cherries infused all year long til I returned to Canada in late spring, and broke open the jar to share some homemade cherry liqueur with my friend Tamara. A tipply tea party.
cherry liqueur © elisa rathje 2011
In celebration of another lovely visit with family here (though summer did take its time arriving), we poured a glass all around to say goodbye.
cherry liqueur © elisa rathje 2011
All the booze is in the fruit, a pair of cherries will set me a little drunk. Perhaps not the best state for packing the suitcases. I’ll be in England with my sweetheart before long – luckily he made cherry liqueur last year too! We sipped it all through the winter, when it is particularly good with a square of dark chocolate. I soaked the last cherries in sherry come spring and abandoned them back to the pantry. I expect they’ll be quite nice this autumn. We made lots of other types of liqueur and we’ll have to do it all over again this year.

elderflower sherry

A moment before we left sunny England for sodden Canada, I couldn’t resist picking a few more elderflowers for one last project.

© elisa rathje 2011

A project as easy as elderflower honey. Simply pour a small bottle of sherry over a few elderflower umbels until they’re submerged.

© elisa rathje 2011

Leave it to infuse for a few weeks. Strain out the blossoms and tip in some sugar, perhaps a cupful or two to taste, then turn over for some days until it’s dissolved. It should make a lovely tipple for the darkening season. This one must infuse for months, til right about the time the elderberries appear in September, when I return to the cottage. I’ve just spotted a pair of boozy infusions in a cupboard here, gorgeous things, drowned cherries and raspberries. Just right to share with dear old friends on a terribly wet spring evening. Coming for a visit?

hip flask

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.