Something for the weekend: sloe gin and bramble vodka from Heavenly Hedgerows

Someone once sang that the best things in life are free, and while they may have been a bean-eating hippie, Heavenly Hedgerows seems to have hit upon a way of actually doing it.

The HH team have taken the bounty of the field margin, that many used to pick as children and now do the same with their own, and turned it into award-winning delights for grown-ups.

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We are talking booze. Smooth, lovely, refreshing, booze. The cause and solution to all our problems.

Into this booze go the berries we used to pick, the brambles, aka blackberries. Also, the sloe berries our parents used to sequester for their home-made gin hooch. And then the are the hawthorn berries, which I must admit I always thought were poisonous.

All of these were in the tremendous box of treats they sent through to Foodies South West, which have proved the solace after a tricky house move that involved unfinished kitchens and squatting in my old flat for a fortnight while getting Hulk-level angry.

In the box were tall, narrow, slender bottles, designed to grace a kitchen in their own right. In these bottles, sloe gin and bramble vodka, both made using fruits gleaned from the country lanes away from the polluting fumes of main rural roads.

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Both were great – thick, velvety liqueurs in their own right brimming with the taste of the countryside. But they really came alive when added to mundane beverages – the HH website recommends to add to a sparkling wine, we found a dribble of either into a G&T brought it alive with flavour.

In the case of the sloe gin, this was the tang of the sloe berries, a flavour not unfamiliar thanks to people like Plymouth Gin taking this formerly home-made Mothers’ Ruin and making it commercial.
In the case of the bramble vodka, there was the Fruits of the Forest flavour, but also more, the vodka backdrop punching through, letting you know you were having a real cocktail in a not unpleasant way.

The bottles come with labels that say both are Best Before: Bed.
That may be true but they work equally well, I think, as part of a pre-dinner aperitif.
Like when you have a handful of close friends round for dinner on a Friday, you’ve all had a shitty week, the dinner needs another 15 minutes in the oven and, oh go on then, maybe another little snifter before we take our seats, why not, those people in IT eh, what a load of….

With the bottles of booze came elderberry and bramble jam and hawthorn jelly. Not American jam, but jelly, jell-o. Not the kind children eat with ice cream but the sort you smear, glutinous and feral, on your roast dinner.

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These were not ordinary condiments either. These were Taste of the West award-winners.

I spread some elderberry and bramble jam (Taste of the West silver 2012) on some bread cut so thick that you’d need a ladder to get over it. It was sharp and tangy, with an attractive crunch from the seeds in the brambles. There was so much fruit in it, it seemed to almost burst from the jar as I opened it. It worked equally well in my morning porridge when I’d run out of honey.

The hawthorn jelly (Taste of the West gold 2012) I approached carefully, partly because since since childhood I’d thought hawthorns were poisonous. I remained alive, it’s tangy but not over-sweet sharpness cutting through the meat juices when served with the evening dinner.

So, this is a long, rambling and so far, very very positive review. What about the negatives? Well there are some of course. The 20cl bottles of gin and vodka look excellent, but don’t go far if you’re a booze hound so you need to (quite rightly) use sparingly.

But that’s about it. I would say the boozes were a shoe in for Christmas stockings and for summer dinner parties or barbecues, assuming we actually have a summer this year!

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