Lets face it, you can pretty much transform anything into loop juice as long as you have the essential ingredients: sugar and yeast. In some cases such as proper farmyard scrumpy, the juice of the apples is simply slapped into bottles and the naturally occurring yeasts and sugars do their thing over time…nature is truly wonderful!
This time of year has already seen courgettes make the jump from useful little veggies to useless oversized behemoths of their former selves, August is the perfect time for them to go crazy, a couple of weeks in a place with slightly more clement weather than our little island, and you come back to find a large, stripy green zeppelin has crash landed in the centre of your patch right where the courgettes used to be. Bugger.
What to do…what to do? Last year on finding a bunch of them taking up more space than they should have, I asked myself the same question. As it was I ended hollowing one out puffball style, stuffing it with chunks of rabbit, potato, spinach and a few ladles of rabbit stock, wrapping it in burdock leaves and roasting it for 30 minutes in the ashes of the tree house fire pit, it was quite a delicious meal and I was more than a little smug with my creative use of the preconceived uselessness of the humble marrow. If I was smug…then the man who told me about this was as smug as a city banker that has brought the country into recession, kept his job and made hoards of cash in his following annual bonus.
I wish I had bumped into my local honesty box/grocer last year: a quiet, thoughtful green-fingered mouse of a man that starts every other sentence with the oh so philosophical words “At the end of the day…” and even ends a few with them too.Recently whilst dropping by his box to top up the larder I spyed a pair of massive marrows tucked at the back of his ‘shop’ looking distinctly unloved, I had to ask if anyone ever bought them off him. He replied in his light Sussex twang with a few less clucks (for the chicken afficiendos out there).
“At the end of the day, no-one loikes them marrows much…”
“Moind, you gotta know how to treat the buggers then theys more valuable than a pair o’ proize porkers! I turn ‘em into grog.”
To some you, it may appear I live on the set of the Archers, well perhaps,s but it is often like this round ‘ere, then again according to AA Gill the sound the British countryside makes is Radio 4, so it sort of makes sense…no? ok.
He explained his method and then to me into the nerve centre that was the his brewing room, I thought I knew a bit about homebrewing, this chap had more strange contraptions in his shed than a mad scientist, all geared towards creating potent tipples capable of reducing a T-Rex into a giggling schoolgirl. Watch and learn Weston… He already had four huge marrows hanging in tights that periodically dripped into funnel-capped demi-johns, it all looked very kinky. Now I was in the know of how to transform a marrow something more exotic than chutney (which is fairly exotic in itself), it was time to put the two beasts I purchased for tuppence to the test.
As I understand this is no-nonsense farmer’s hooch and devilishly strong to boot, not that I’ve tasted it, but from what I have gleaned from the world wide web- rather surprisingly marrow rum production is a lot more common than I had expected…
- 1 large marrow
- 500gs Demerara sugar
- Juice of 1 Orange
- 6g White Wine yeast (plus 2g for secondary fermentaion)
- 1 Cup of raisins
- Large funnel
- An old pair of tights
First off, cut the stalk end of your marrow off and keep to on side for re-capping later. Scoop out the seeds of the marrow as best you can trying to keep as much flesh intact, this is best achieved using a combination of a long spoon, metal ruler or bread knife and I lot of shaking upside down. This is by far the most challenging part…
Once you have a fairly good cavity, mix the raisins and sugar together, add the yeast and juice of the orange and give a good stir till well mixed and slightly gloopy. The next stage is to pack in as much of the mixture as possible and then replace the lid and reattach with either sellotape or a few toothpicks. I would go with the former, as it won’t pull off when you insert the marrow into the tights.
Find somewhere warm (the kitchen is always the best place, although to speed up fermentation an boiler room will do it!) and hang the marrow up in one leg of the tights with the end of the marrow placed in the funnel that runs into the demi-john (see below).
The next step will take the best part of a month. Slowly the insides of the marrow will begin to soften and break down and with any luck the bottom will start leaking out, after a couple of weeks, give the marrow a squeeze, if it is a little soft, make a few small holes in the bottom with a toothpick to encourage dribbling.
Once you have as much juice as possible after a month, take the marrow down, cut it open and scrape out the remaining flesh into a fermentation vessel, add previously leaked-out liquid and top up with warm water and a pinch of yeast (2g). Fit airlock to your fermentation vessel and leave for six months in a dark place, before draining and bottling.
I must warn you, mine has only been hanging for three weeks and has only just started leaking out, so It is still early days. For further information visit Fiona at the Cottage smallholder for her version or the self-sufficientish forum for another version.
The waiting game begins…
Well, it looks as if British summertime has officially begun what with all the rain we’ve been having! At least there is something positive to the country being wetter than an otters pocket: Mushrooms have been appearing all over the place in huge numbers, a field where I regularly find Ceps has got quite a good variety of the Boletus family this year including a number of Devil’s Bolete (a first for me), as the name suggests, you would have to be clinically insane to dine on such a specimen. Unfortunately I only found one rather small cep...time to go further afield.
Crafted by Satan himself from Playdough, Boletus satanus
Just the one Cep.
I could help but notice an enormous wavy circle of field mushrooms, a few of which I gathered and took home for tea. Barn life continues to go well despite losing a few of my chilli plants to some adventurous cows, although it appears they weren’t big fans of the Scotch Bonnet variety…serves the buggers right!
I have been eating my fair share of blackberries as I am sure you have and got a bit of a surprise last night when I flicked on ITV news to see a feature on the Tree house one year on including a particularly fine pigeon meal I rustled up for the reporter! To see it online click here.