December’s arrived and with it comes an extra crispness in the air, evenings in front of the log-burner and a festive feeling that’s fast sneaking up on us. Thoughts are turning to Christmas and, if I could, I’d be heading to Europe to soak up some authentic yuletide atmosphere in a traditional Christmas market. Lebkuchen biscuits, Glühwein and schnapps spring to mind and with them my Lebkuchen recipe.
The medieval towns do it best; Christmas time in Bruges is magical and Vienna’s on my wish list but Munich is home to my favourite Christmas market. Or, as the Germans would say, ‘Weihnachtsmarkt’.
Gin has long been my tipple of choice so I was delighted to find out this week that there’s a whole day devoted to everything gin. #WorldGinDay happens each year in June and began in 2009 (why did that take so long?). There are over 70 gin inspired events planned worldwide.
To celebrate I’m going to share with you some tips and a recipe to let you in on the secrets of how to make the perfect gin and tonic. So, let’s bow down to the botanicals and celebrate World Gin Day with a tipple or two.
There’s a rye bread that’s been baked underground in geothermal springs in Iceland for generations. The Icelandic bread is dark, dense, deliciously sweet and it’s called Hverabrauð, Thunder Bread or Icelandic rye bread. Read on to find out about our day in Iceland and for the thunder bread recipe which I recommend you have a go at making at home (you don’t actually need a thermal lake in your garden to do this).
I went on a whirlwind, 24-hour visit, to Iceland to discover how Thunder Bread is made and to catch a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the Celebrity Cruises and Waitrose ‘Taste of Travel’ food and travel series. The series is filmed with the lovely Rosie’s Deli Cafe owner and presenter Rosie Lovell.
You’ll find lots of food posts on The Travelbunny. I taunt and tempt you with accounts of the luscious food and drink I’ve gorged in places like Turkey, Iceland or Vietnam. I love going on food tours and sampling cuisines from around the world but sometimes the best tastes are right under your nose. Just outside the back gate actually which is where I pick the fruit for my favourite blackberry vodka.
There’s a rambling field at the end of our garden which is teeming with wildlife and it’s covered in a thick tangle of brambles.This year they’re heavy with plump, juicy blackberries aching to be plucked and made into something glorious. Blackberry vodka.
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Lush, plump blackberries
Yesterday I pulled on my wellies (there are Adders in that field), had a good old forage and picked myself a bucketful of blackberries. I’ve put some in the freezer to add a touch of berry heaven to those warming winter apple crumbles. I have jars of dark, gleaming bramble jelly stockpiled from last year so don’t need to make more jam. So, what to do with my haul of blackberries?
Ha! it’s been made into a big bottle of swirling, ruby-coloured gorgeousness. Blackberry Vodka. There’s nothing better than the rosy glow a couple of shots impart on a crisp winter’s evening.
The dark ruby colour makes it the perfect Christmassy tipple or you could use it to concoct a blackberry vodka cocktail. If you make blackberry vodka in August or early September it’ll be ready by Christmas. Delicious!
Here’s how to make Blackberry Vodka. Scroll to the end of the post for a printable version.
Blackberry Vodka Recipe
500 ml of Vodka – don’t crack open the Grey Goose, a cheap supermarket brand will do nicely.
500g of freshly-picked blackberries. Rinse thoroughly to remove any bugs.
Dark, Plump Blackberries
100g of caster sugar
2 Vanilla Pods
Vanilla pods are my blackberry vodka secret ingredient! Split the pods and scrape the seeds out – add these and just one of the pod casings into the Blackberry Vodka. The second pod I add to a jar of sugar to make vanilla sugar which is lovely for baking.
Sugar and Vanilla Pods
I doubled the ingredients because I had so many blackberries and a whopping litre bottle of Vodka. Made perfect sense…!
How to make Blackberry Vodka
Take a sterilised, airtight Kilner Jar or wide-necked bottle large enough to hold all your ingredients. Add the blackberries, sugar, vanilla pod and seeds and pour in the Vodka. Yes, it’s that easy!
Adding the Vodka…
Give the jar a good shake to help dissolve the sugar and place in a cool, dark place. Swirl the jar every day for the first week and then occasionally until none of the sugar is visible at the bottom of the jar. Forget about it for 12 weeks…
After 12 weeks strain the liquid. Rinse a muslin cloth and wring it out tightly to stop any of the precious liquid soaking into it. Place the muslin over a sieve and strain the blackberry infused vodka through it into a wide jug.
It’s important to remove the blackberries at this point otherwise the woody centre of the berry gives the Vodka a bitter taste.
Funnel the liquid into the bottle of your choice – I save any unusual bottles to make it look even more special! These vintage clip-top bottles are pretty and work perfectly for storing your blackberry vodka. You can drink now or, if you have cast-iron willpower, leave the warm blackberry flavours to infuse even more. Enjoy!
Blackberry Vodka Recipe
Easy recipe for blackberry vodka
- 0.5 litre vodka
- 500 grams blackberries
- 100 grams caster sugar
- 2 vanilla pods optional
Rince and drain the blackberries to remove any bugs.
Take a steralised kilner jar and add the blackberries, sugar, one vanilla pod and the seeds from the second vanilla pod.
Top up the kilner jar with the vodka. Seal the lid and gently shake to dissolve the sugar.
Put in a cool dark cupboard. Shake daily until the sugar is all dissolved. This will take about a week.
After 12 weeks strain through a sieve and damp muslin and decant into a pretty bottle. It's important to remove the blackberries at this point or the woody centres will give the vodka a bitter taste.
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