Saturday, 20 November 2010

Slàinte Mhath!

Unless you speak Gaelic or have a Scot in the family you may be confused by the title of this's an old Scottish toast: 'slainte mhath' (pronounced slanj uh va) meaning good health. And the reason for toasting you all is that I've been busy making drinks, soft and otherwise, in the Holly Grove kitchen recently.

First off the bench is an update on the cider front; the first demijohn is now bottled. It has retained its deep pink colour and, if I can work out how the hydrometer works, I'll let you know the alcohol level.  I bottled the cider in 2 litre plastic bottles that had previously held sparkling spring water. They were sterilised with Milton sterilising fluid and then rinsed out with cooled previously boiled water. So approximately 5 litres of pink cider awaiting next summer.

The water bottles came in useful again for my first attempt at ginger beer. I love this spicy, refreshing drink and was tempted to try and make my own when I read of all the ingredients in the commercial brands compared to the simple ingredients in a homemade version, and it's made in a bottle, so no special equipment required! The result is a lightly sparkling, gingery, not too sweet, moreish drink; perfect for hot summer days and cosy winter evenings by the fire. I'll definitely be making lots more of this one and will slightly increase the ginger content next time.

Clockwise from the top - cider, ginger beer, apple liqueur, lemonade

Now on the shelf and ready for Christmas is my apple liqueur; two versions: one made with the rosy red dessert apples from one of the old apple trees and one made with Cox's from one of the newer fruit trees in the garden.  Some of this liqueur went into our Christmas puddings this year.  Both are a lovely amber colour, though more colour in the old apple tree version, and both taste divine. To be drunk in small quantities as they contain lots of alcohol, lovely with a festive mince pie or slice of Christmas cake. Can't wait!

And lastly for this roundup, lemonade.  This has proven very successful and like the ginger beer really easy to make. I made about 500ml of this and keep it in the fridge. We drink it diluted with sparkling water, about 50:50, so refreshing and tasty. I'm going to reduce the sugar content and increase the lemon next time as we like a sharper more lemony flavour.

Looking at this line-up I don't think I'll be buying much in the way of drinks from now on, if only I could make a decent Chablis and/or Merlot! In the meantime here are the recipes for the ginger beer and lemonade - cheers!

Ginger Beer

2-litre plastic bottle
quarter tsp champagne yeast
225g caster sugar
2 tbsp finely grated fresh root ginger
juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp honey

Add the yeast to the bottle then pour in the sugar. In a jug, mix the grated ginger, lemon juice and honey together. Pour this mixture into the bottle and fill to three quarters full with cold water. Put the top on the bottle and shake until the sugar is dissolved. Top up the bottle with water, leaving a 2.5cm gap at the top.

Cap the bottle tightly, then put it somewhere warm. Leave it for about 2-3 days. Once the bottle feels very hard place the bottle in the fridge for several hours to stop the yeast working. Pass the ginger beer through a fine sieve and re bottle.Your ginger beer is now ready to enjoy.

Lemony Lemonade
Makes about 500ml
half a cup caster sugar
1 tbsp honey
half a cup water
1 lemon, zest and juice
450ml cold water

Put the caster sugar, honey and cup of water into a small saucepan and bring to the boil, simmer for 2 minutes, until sugar has dissolved. Put the lemon zest and juice in a large jug and pour over the syrup. Allow to cool slightly then put the lemon mixture into a bottle. Add enough of the 450ml of cold water to fill the bottle.. Cap and chill for at least 2 hours before serving. To serve, dilute the lemonade about 50:50 with chilled sparkling water.

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