This flavoured vodka is the best I’ve ever tasted because the fruit is front and centre. Traditional recipes work by volume – one-third alcohol, one-third fruit, one-third sugar. My gardener friend Tom Coward’s does the same, the difference being that you don’t add the sugar until later, giving you the chance to taste as you add and stop at the point where the balance is just right for that particular fruit. If you have only a small amount of fruit to play with you could make it in a jam jar. Once the fruit vodka is ready, strain it, decant into bottles and keep it in the freezer.
PREP TIME 15 minutes, plus infusing
fruit, such as forced rhubarb, fresh currants, Alpine strawberries or raspberries
decent-quality vodka (the better the quality, the better the results)
caster sugar, to taste
1. Wash and pick over, trim or chop the fruit as needed (you can leave currants, Alpine strawberries and raspberries whole).
2. Place the fruit in a warm, sterilised Kilner jar or bottle, then pour over vodka until you have equal ‘layers’ of fruit and vodka. Let it infuse for a week or as long as it takes for the fruit flavour to seep into the vodka.
3. When the vodka is fruity enough add sugar a little at a time, shaking or stirring to dissolve. Taste it every now and again until you’re happy with the balance.
4. Leave to infuse for 1 month, up-ending the jar or bottle occasionally to make sure that the sugar is fully dissolved and the flavours melded. Strain through a muslin-lined funnel into warm, sterilised bottles. Reserve the infused fruit to use to make a fool, or freeze it for another time.
5. Serve the fruit vodka really cold – I like to store it in the freezer. It will keep for months.
Although rhubarb has a very large root system, it will grow well in a pot provided it’s at least 40cm in diameter. It is also very hungry, so make sure you use good compost and add plenty of organic matter. Champagne is an excellent variety that is easy to grow. If you are looking specifically for rhubarb to force try Timperley Early, which is especially bred for early cropping.
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Grow Fruit and Vegetables in Pots: Planting Advice and Recipes from Great Dixter will be published by Phaidon Press Ltd on 7 February, price £24.95. To order a copy for £19.95 with free p&p until 2 March call 01603 648155 or go to mailshop.co.uk.