cocktails · food · food storage · recipes

How To Make Hawthorn Berry Gin – Foraging Recipe

Basically, foraging is like shopping – except everything is free, so it’s better. As I’m on maternity leave, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to pick berries this year, so I wanted to share some of the recipes I’m trying out. I’ve heard that hawthorn berry gin has a taste a bit like sherry, so of course that was first on the list to try. Whether you live in the town or the countryside, chances are you’ll have a hawthorn bush nearby, as they’re one of the most common types of plant used for hedges in this country.

This is a great way to transform a bottle of cheap £10 supermarket vodka into a bottle of gin you’d pay at least £25 for. Because yes – gin is basically just vodka that’s been flavoured either during or after the distillation process. Who knew?

Fair warning: this is my first time making hawthorn gin, so it’s not exactly a tried and tested recipe just yet! I’ve tried to read through a number of different recipes and select the “average” set of instructions to follow…

Hawthorn Gin: The Recipe

1. First, pick your hawthorn berries

It’s the perfect time of year for picking hawthorn berries! They’re also a great thing to forage, because unlike blackberries or even damsons, they’re not that popular, so it’s unlikely that other people will get there before you and pinch all the ripe berries.

The berries are ripe when they’re a lovely bright red, from late August through to October depending on where you live. If you’re not confident identifying hawthorn, you can find a guide here. It’s not likely that you’d mix it up with another plant, so it’s a pretty safe bet for a new forager! Remember not to pick all the berries you find – they’re important food for wildlife too.

Some people say you should wait for the first frost to pick hawthorn berries, but it’s not really necessary for making gin. If you want, you can freeze the berries and defrost before using them, to achieve the same effect.

foraging for hawthorn berries to make hawthorn gin uk

2. Prepare your hawthorn berries

Sort through the berries to remove any that are discoloured, and give them a wash.

Ideally at this point you want to top and tail the berries, cutting off the stems and the little brown bit at the bottom. You don’t have to, but apparently if you remove these parts, it reduces the amount of sediment that you have to strain out later. Some recipes leave the berries whole – others cut out the stone in the middle (but that seemed like too much effort to me) – this seems like the most popular approach though.

preparing hawthorn berries to make hawthorn gin recipe

3. Bottle it

Pack the berries into a sterilised bottle or preserving jar, adding sugar between the layers as you go. I find a lot of homemade gin too sweet, so I’ve not been over-generous with my sugar, but done recipes recommend vast quantities of the stuff. It’s basically just there for flavour, so you can add it to taste.

Leave a space at the top of the jar so you can give it a good shake. Then fill the jar or bottle with cheap supermarket gin or vodka.

making hawthorn gin at home recipe with hawthorn berries

4. Wait for hawthorn gin

And now… We wait! Leave the gin for about a month, giving it a shake every few days. Then, strain your gin. You can do this the traditional way through a muslin, or through filter paper.

Next, let it mature for 2 – 3 months before drinking. It will keep for about a year after that, so make sure you label the bottle.

how to make hawthorn gin at home with hawthorn berries

Now, I can’t report back on the flavour just yet because my gin is still infusing, but I will let you know how it turns out when we crack it out in the winter!

baking · food · gluten free · recipes

The BEST Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

Today, I’m going to share my gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe. I love baking, and as my husband is gluten intolerant, it’s hard to find fresh baked goods for him in the shops. So, whenever the opportunity arises (i.e. Little Man is in a good mood and happy enough on his play mat), I get baking.

Back at the start of lockdown, I was planning on baking some chocolate chip cookies one day, but asked my husband if he had any special requests. He asked for oatmeal raisin cookies. I’d never baked them before so I researched a bit online and made my own substitutions to make them gluten free. They’re actually an ideal cookie to make GF, because the oats help to bind them and reduce the floury/crumbly texture that you often get with gluten free baking. For the busy mum (or dad) on the go, the finished cookies can also be frozen and reheated later – see instructions further down this post.

Now, onto the important bit…

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies Recipe

the best gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies recipe the sickly mama blog easy bake

The Recipe

Assemble the following ingredients:

  • 200g sugar (ideally a golden caster, or a mix of brown and white sugar also works well)
  • 150ml sunflower oil (or other veggie oil)
  • 1 egg
  • 100g raisins or sultanas
  • 120g gluten free flour
  • 300g oats (make sure they’re specifically gluten free oats if you’re baking for a coeliac)
  • 1/2 tsp xantham gum (not essential if you don’t have it, but helps with binding gluten free bakes)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Gluten Free Oatmeal Raisin Cookies – The Method

These cookies are super quick and easy to assemble, because the oil base makes mixing them very simple.

1. Pour 50ml of boiling water over your raisins/sultanas and leave to soak.

2. Preheat your oven to 180 C.

3. Line two baking trays with parchment.

4. Mix the sugar, oil and egg in a bowl until well combined.

5. Add the water from the raisins/sultanas, the cinammon and the vanilla extract, and mix.

6. Add the flour, xantham gum and bicarbonate of soda and mix. Then, add the oats and mix.

7. Add the raisins and mix. Your cookie batter is now complete!

8. Dollop the batter into the baking sheets. Gluten free cookies never spread quite as much as regular cookies, so get them into roughly the thickness and shape you want, but still aim to leave a couple of centimetres gap between cookies.

9. Bake for 12 – 15 mins until golden brown, and cool on the trays. Voila! Your cookies are ready.

Freezing and Reheating Your Cookies

These gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies freeze really well! It’s perfect so that next time you can have that fresh baked cookie taste with even less effort. Ideally freeze them on a tray, before transferring into a bag or container for storage.

You can keep the cookies in the freezer for up to two months. To reheat, simply pop them on a baking tray (from frozen) in an oven pre-heated to 140 C, for 10 – 15 minutes. Everyone will think you just baked them!

mum and baby making gluten free oatmeal raisin cookies the sickly mama blog recipe

More Gluten Free Recipes

Looking for more yummy gluten free recipes? Why not try this recipe for (highly addictive) gluten free rocky roads? They’re perfect to make with kids as they don’t even require baking!

coronavirus · food · food storage · recipes · top tips · Uncategorized

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks for Food Shortages and Limited Shopping Trips

Hi guys! I thought today I would share some of my best lockdown larder tips for cooking and stocking your kitchen during the current coronavirus lockdown. My husband is the chef in our household, while I do the baking. As I’m on maternity leave though, I’ve done most of the organising of food shops and storage.

I’m currently sat in our living room with my three month old son, who is busy doing a poo. This is a rather involved process requiring a lot of concentration, so I guess we could be here a while. I might as well do something useful with the time…

Lockdown Larder: Kitchen Tips and Tricks

1. You Can Freeze Milk

I was surprised how many people don’t know this! But you can totally freeze fresh milk. My mum has been doing this for years to ensure the house never runs out. I currently have four spare bottles of milk in the freezer for the times when we can’t get hold of it at the supermarket. Obviously if you’re going to do this, be considerate – don’t buy up loads of milk at once, as that’s what leads to shortages. Buy a little extra and set it aside over several shopping trips. Also, fair warning: frozen milk does turn yellow, which looks slightly horrifying, but it goes white again when you defrost it.

Bonus tip: you can also freeze butter.

2. You can make bread without yeast.

I know a lot of places are experiencing shortages of baker’s yeast, but you can make delicious flatbread without yeast, such as Indian naan bread (click for the recipe) or, if you prefer something that’s a more traditional loaf, you can make Irish soda bread.

However, in actual fact you can make a lot more kinds of bread because…

3. You don’t need yeast to make yeast

You can make your own yeast with just flour and water, by capturing natural yeast from the air to make a sourdough starter. Once your sourdough starter is going, you can bake all kinds of yeasted breads and cakes from it. Plus, if you’re homeschooling kids, it makes for a great home science project!

Speaking of which…

4. You don’t need eggs (or flour) to make cake

Obviously a lot of cake recipes require egg, and there seem to be a lot of shortages of eggs at the moment. Local farm shops/veg box delivery companies are a good alternative source to the supermarket, if you live somewhere a bit more rural.

However, if you can’t get eggs there’s still plenty of easy bakes you can do without them (and if you have kids, they’ll enjoy making them too). Try making scones,* or flapjacks are a great bake if you can’t get hold of eggs or flour. You can even make meringue without egg whites. There are also lots of vegan recipes online that are egg free, so get a’googling!

5. Green lentils bulk out meat dishes

If you are trying to ration what’s in your freezer, but want to make dishes such as cottage pie or spaghetti bolognese (really anything involving minced meat), you can make your mince go further by bulking out with green lentils. Cook your ragu or sauce, add the lentils about fifteen minutes before the end, and your meal will go much further, still taste deliciously meaty, and actually be healthier as well. Triple win! Plus, kids will not notice that you’re secretly feeding them veg. Quadruple win?

6. Freeze freeze freeze

Obviously you want to be making best use of your freezer right now, and minimising the number of trips to the supermarket wherever possible. There’s a lot of stuff that you can’t just freeze – lots of fresh vegetables need blanching before freezing, which is a total pain. On the other hand, I hear that scurvy is worse.

If you’re lazy like me, you can straight-up freeze onions and peppers (chop them first) without blanching, which is handy for making fajitas and stir fries etc. Then put other veg in sauces, soups, ragu etc. which can be frozen once cooked and make for an easy ready meal for your future self.

…And that’s me pretty much done on the top tips front, so let’s finish up with a few wise words from Ryan Gosling.

Lockdown Larder: Your Top Tips

Do you have any lockdown larder tips for food storage or preservation? I’d love to hear your ideas! Let me know in the comments.

* The recipe I’ve linked to suggests using egg to glaze, but you can substitute milk, or just not bother glazing!