Lesley Dolphin: how to make rhubarb gin

PUBLISHED: 10:05 16 October 2020

The finished products, Lesley Dolphin's blackcurrant and rhubarb infused gin to enjoy by the fireside this autumn. Image: Lesley Dolphin

The finished products, Lesley Dolphin's blackcurrant and rhubarb infused gin to enjoy by the fireside this autumn. Image: Lesley Dolphin

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Lesley has put her bumper summer crop to good use to make a seasonal beverage for Halloween

In production. . . Lesley Dolphin's blackcurrant and rhubarb infused gin. Image: Lesley DolphinIn production. . . Lesley Dolphin's blackcurrant and rhubarb infused gin. Image: Lesley Dolphin

So summer is pretty much over and we’re into the season of ghosts and mists and mellow fruitfulness.

My other half, Mark, really doesn’t look forward to the nights drawing in but I quite like the thought of cosy evenings with the curtains drawn and the fire burning (it’s gas but looks the part).

I also like the mellow fruitfulness bit – blackberries and pumpkins and sloes. We were meant to visit our friends in Ipswich Massachusetts this year but obviously that didn’t happen. They do Halloween so well, not just the trick and treating but the pumpkins and apple juice and other autumn goodies.

We visited their local farm shop a few years ago and it was a sight to behold with pumpkins of every shape and size displayed. Every October I debate whether to make pumpkin pie from the scrapings from my Halloween lantern, but as I can’t get it to turn out as yummy as the American dessert I usually chicken out and make pumpkin soup instead.

Lesley Dolphin's American friends certainly know how to grow Halloween pumpkins! Image: Lesley DolphinLesley Dolphin's American friends certainly know how to grow Halloween pumpkins! Image: Lesley Dolphin

This year I have actually been quite fruitful myself already. Our garden produced a bumper crop of runner beans so I have blanched and frozen a couple of containers which will see us through the winter. I also made stewed apple from the windfalls after Storm Francis and they will go very well with the blackberries I’ll be picking. I’m absurdly proud of how productive I have been and am even considering whether to buy a bigger freezer to store it all.

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I’ve also been very industrious on the alcohol front. My rhubarb did really well this year, so as well as crumbles and pies and a rhubarb and custard cake – which was a big hit – I decided to make rhubarb gin.

It was very simple. I just put chunks of rhubarb and some sugar in a big jar and topped it up with gin. A bit of shaking – the jar, not me – and four weeks later the gin was ready. It was a lovely pink colour and tasted absolutely delicious. The boozy rhubarb leftovers also gave a new twist to my crumble. . .

None of it lasted long but it inspired me. Next came gin infused with blackcurrants, then gooseberries and most recently bullaces. You may not have heard of bullaces. I hadn’t until recently.

A lovely friend spotted what he thought was a bumper crop of sloes and proudly presented me with a containerful. However, I discovered that, unlike sloes, these had tiny stones in the middle. I really didn’t know what they were or, more importantly, whether they would make gin. So I asked my BBC Radio Suffolk afternoon listeners who are a knowledgeable lot.

After a bit of debate they came up trumps and I learnt that they are bullaces, a variety of plum with edible fruit similar to the damson. Listener Brian assured me they make great gin and sent me a photo of his fruit lined up and ready to be pricked and dropped into his gin.

So that’s where mine are now – busy soaking away. I’ll let you know how it tastes next month.

Happy Halloween!

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