So before I get a whole load of moaning emails I want to clear a few things up. Firstly, I know this is not Rum. I know what Rum is. Rum is made from fermented sugar cane… and this is made from a marrow. A marrow fermented in a sock. Let’s not get too hung up the nomenclature.
Mind you, any one that insists on calling a marrow a zucchini needs a good hiding, and as I’m from the North East I should be calling it a marra’.
Marrows are the world’s worst vegetable. A bloated courgette that is good for nothing except making rum apparently. The initial idea came from some notes that funny uncle Michael gave to me from his mid-70s wine making that I have somehow inherited. There has been a revolution in kit, ingredients and ideas in amateur wine making so most have some rather out dated methods, they are a pleasure to read and there are one or two great ideas and inspirations there. Making “Northumbrian Rum” seemed like a particularly bad idea so it really appealed and there are various other methods I have seen since.
The basic idea is to deseed a marrow, pack it with sugar and wine yeast, reseal and then leave to ferment. Light or dark sugar is used in differing recipes and some add raisins either during or after the marrow fermentation. This is a real prison hooch operation so organisation is rather haphazard so I doubt there is a true “marrow rum pot” to make this in an elegant fashion. With the prison hooch stylings there is a totally illegal (both in Britain and Hamburgerland) method of ice distillation that can increase the ABV by freezing the finished rum and letting the more alcoholic mixture melt and be saved with the water being discarded. If they are reading I would just like to tell MI5 and GCHQ that I have not done this.
1 large marrow
1ish kg of demerara sugar
Wash you marrow (ooh-er!) chop of the top and scoop out the seeds.
Fill your cavity (ooh-er!) with demerara sugar, give it a tap and then top it up if space is created.
Juice an orange and pout in the juice. Give it a tap and top up the sugar again.
Pour in your yeast – make a starter as the packet describes or if no instructions dissolve in water and pour over the sugar.
Place the top on the marrow and tape it shut getting a tight seal.
Pierce the skin of the marrow at the base but do not go through the flesh then wrap in cling film.
Place it in a container –the more air tight the better so it can drip into a demijohn.
Wait for it to ferment, drip out.
After a week to three months depending on the integrity of the devil’s vegetable squeeze the now desiccated marrow skin to get all the juice out and leave to ferment fully.
You can now bottle and leave for a year to mature or…
Gather the juice and add more sugar and a high strength yeast. Ferment to the highest alcohol tolerance it can go to – possibly 20% ABV.
Last year I transformed a few bottles of my strawberry wine into vermouths making three differing tastes that were used in various cocktails and gin & tonics over the summer months. They were all nice but the more floral version was generally the best, though the blackberry gin paired better with the more spiced version. It was all based upon a lot of reading and not a massive amount of understanding. Pairing tastes together and creating balance is very difficult to do writing it as an abstract recipe. Conversely throwing ingredients into a pot and creating it organically is nerve racking as too much cinnamon or wormwood can obliterate all the other ingredients and hard work that has just occurred. Which ever method is used it will be a steep learning curve with ideas that outmatch your ability. Great fun and maybe with time I can get towards my goal of a vermouth that can be drunk not as cocktail addition but aperitif on its own. Maybe 400 years and I’ll have it all cracked.
I may well return to a strawberry vermouth in the future but the idea of an English vermouth really intrigued me as foraging for ingredients has become one of lifes pleasures as I have become more and more adventurous in my wine making. Vermouth is originally French with the Italians adopting it creating two differing styles but Britain has a long tradition of herbal tonics, infused spirits, spiced chutneys and Nandos so there is no reason why this should not come naturally to me through osmosis… google… trial and error… and advice… if any one gives it…
The Art of Drink had a solid looking basic vermouth recipe so became the basis of mine. (thanks Art of Drink – I’m only borrowing it!) I swapped a few ingredients out of necessity and personal preference as I cannot get quinine in Britain and hate camomile finding it overpowering so decided to use just a smudge of some foraged English walnut leaf.
Then I wanted to steer it towards some traditionally English tastes using flowers as this had been the best vermouth I had made. Elderflowers were added as they make a great white wine and can compliment the base wine white used for a vermouth. A few dandelion heads were harvested, though they are becoming rarer with the hottest summer months starting to make them flower less. I had hoped for more to give a gingery hit but had to make do with what I could find. In all honesty I would like three times as many. Dandelion root was also substituted for some of the traditional bittering agents and I did consider hops but thought it might be too vegetal in taste. The last flower to be added was yarrow which is an aromatic weed that happily grows everywhere which I literally stumbled over as I walked home. It grows in small patches as it is rhizomatous (25 points in Scrabble) and has small clumped white or pink flowers with fern like leaves. The leaves are a full on kick to the taste buds but the flowers more mild and taste of a mild aniseed and liquorish and can be found in a fair few vermouth recipes.
I’m not the only person that thought of English vermouth either as there isThe Collector Vermouthbut I think we can all agree that a professional chef, drink tosser and herb fondler should cower before me the enthusiastic amateur lacking taste buds and modesty. Their vermouth uses an apple spirit as the fortifier rather than the traditional brandy, grappa or in my case white port. Inspired by this I may make a peach or plum spirit as I have them close to hand and easy to forage but this will very much be next years experiment. I did decide to use a smashed peach stone to add a rounded earthy base note though.
There are two versions I made. One with caramelised sugar in a shop bought white wine and another dryer version using my own oak leaf wine which is I hope light enough to take the additions. Caramelising sugar is an easy concept that hides the teeth gnashingly difficult task to do it. Too little heat nothing happens then the slightest hint of too much and it burns to fuck then laughs at you.
ENGLISH VERMOUTH (NOVO STYLE) – 2 litres
2 x bottles of white wine
400ml of spirit (brandy, grappa, vodka, white port, sherry etc)
200g caramelised sugar
0.5g Gentian Root (or similar bittering agent)
1g Dandelion root
45 Heads of dandelion petals (I only got 15)
0.25g Camomile flowers or a pinch of walnut leaf
1g Vanilla bean
3 Cardamom pods (shell removed)
4 strips of orange peel (Seville oranges are best)
0.25g each of rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, coriander seed
10 yarrow flower heads
1 x Cracked peach stone
To caramelise the sugar put it in a good quality heavy pan with 2 tsp of sugar and stir while on a medium heat. As it starts to dissolve stop stirring and start to swirl it around the pan to keep it moving. It will purée more and more to become a syrup and start to boil. Keep it simmering but on the lowest heat you can manage it. After a few minutes it will start to brown. After 10 or so minutes it will be a rich nutty brown. Pour it onto greased proof paper making sure none will pour off as it is so viscous. This syrup has a lot of heat so make sure it cannot damage any counter tops and resist the temptation to stick a finger in it as it is weaponised sugar acting like napalm and can stick to your skin. Leave for an hour to harden.
As the caramelised sugar sets grab some miniature scales and measure out all your ingredients. I made groups so that they could be incrementally added to the boil.
Group 1 – Florals – elderflower and dandelion
Group 2 – Bitters – wormwood, gentian & dandelion root and coriander seed and the peach stone
Group 4 – Yarrow (yarrow’s taste is very delicate so this is the last addition when off the boil)
Pour the spirit into a good heavy pan and add the group 1 floral elements get it to the boil so it can extract as much flavour.
When the boil starts reduce it to a simmer and start to time it for 10 minutes. Add the Bitters group straight away.
With 5 minutes to go add the herbs
When 10 minutes are up remove from the boil and add the yarrow flowers as it cools.
Leave until cold in a covered pan and then strain through coffee filters (top up with a little spirit if you need to to get it back towards 400ml.
Combine the cleared infused spirits to the wine then crush the caramelised sugar and add a good portion but reserve about 50g.
Taste test and add more sugar if desired.
Ready to drink right away in a cocktail though a few days wait to muddle is recommended. Can be kept indefinitely but best used with in three months – once open and in use refrigerate and use with in a month if you can.
If any one has any experience hints, tips or recommendations I would love to hear it!!!
As everyone knows Port is a rich fortified wine that helped red nosed bankers deal with the pain of working through a boozy lunch and leering at secretaries. Sorry… sorry… it is a rich fortified wine made in the Duoro Valley in Portugal and became popular with the British when they were having a biff boff match with the French who kept all the good wine to themselves. It is generally but not necessarily sweet and of a higher ABV than wine at about 18 to 20% that comes from fortification using a 100% proof brandy like spirit called aguadente. If Port does not come from its traditional home it is often called Oporto.
I am making neither Port or Oporto as I cannot get aguadente, don’t live in Portugal and I’m not using grapes. I do want to make a port style wine that is rich, full bodied, strongly oaked and reasonably sweet to be used as an aperitif and as a Christmas present for Papa Gazette – don’t worry the sausage fingered old buffer cannot use a mobile phone never mind the internet so this will be a total surprise for him.
Dessert gooseberries are too similar to white grapes for this and blackcurrants would create a drink too close to Ribena for my liking. This left blueberries and blackberries as the likely candidates with blackberries eventually chosen for their rich dark taste. I have read about using Damsons which sounds intriguing but I will leave that for another year if I can find some to forage.
Compared to a traditional blackberry wine this uses at least double the fruit at 4kg minimum. I actually went with 4.5kg because I am greedy. Making fruit based ports is far less about recipe as constant tinker and adjustment through the fermentation to maximise the alcohol created. The recipe is a guide only and as you are constantly monitoring it during primary fermentation it is a some what organic process. With more juice macerating there is generally no need to add any extra acid and with more skins macerating and 20g of oak chips added for three months there will be more tannin present lengthening the ageing process – this probably need a minimum of 1.5 years to mature and may well get better and better over three or four.
As well as extra fruit there will be extra sugar as it has a higher desired ABV of 18% This is unfortified but the yeast was incrementally feed with sugar to get the highest alcohol it can produce and tolerate. Some choose to use grape concentrates, raisins, extra tannin as tea or malt extract to give various versions of extra body to the port. I have decided to use 500g of raisins as this has done wonders for my traditional blackberry wine and 70g of extra light dry malt, added for flavour – it should be noted this is only for taste rather in beer when it is “mashed” to extract the sugars for fermentation.. I think… I’m not a beer maker. This malt will give a fuller richer taste and hopefully take the place of the aguadente. I am choosing to probably not fortify in any way but some add brandy or vodka or a combination of the two to pump up the alcohol content – I will only really decide when the port has aged just before bottling it.
The start gravity is the usual 1.09 using the hydrometer to measure it. It will be fed incrementally with more sugar added whenever the hydrometer drops to 1.03. In total 2.2kg of sugar has been added through the primary fermentation and there was the larger reserve of ambient sugar in the huge amount of blackberries used. The yeast will eventually be killed by its own bi product – the ethanol it makes as it ferments. When the yeast dies the sediment changes from the cream looking pure yeast layer to a pinkish hue with the yeast and blackberry solids. This is from less agitation because of the yeast dying so the fruit solids can more easily fall out of suspension. With no active yeast I feel no need to use any campden and sorbate to stabilise the wine before bottling – others may well have their reasons to do so though.
BLACKBERRY PORT – 4.5 Litres
Suitable yeast – champagne, port, burgundy styles
4kg blackberries (more can be added if physical space allows)
Approximately 2kg or more of sugar
70g light malt
Mince the raisins and drop into 500ml boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the malt when when removed from the heat and leave to cool
Wash and mash the blackberries (in a sanitized pot is best) then add to the now cooling raisins and water.
Leave to get to room temperature then add a tsp of pectic enzyme and one or two campden tablets to sanitize and leave covered for 24 hours.
If you can get the blackberry pulp into a fermenting bag to stop unwanted plugs and “boil over” occuring during fermentation.
Stir in 0.5 to 1kg of sugar so the must is at 1.09 Start Gravity ( Do not add all the sugar)
Add the yeast according to their instructions.
Stir twice a day (and squeeze the bag at least a little if you can)
When the gravity drops to 1.03 add more sugar – 300 to 500g
Repeat until gravity radically slows in reducing.
Transfer to secondary fermentation vessel and squeeze as much juice from the fermentation bag if you used it. Add the air lock and leave in secondary fermentation.
Rack if sediment gets to 1.3cm deep or after 5 weeks which ever is earlier. Top up with santisied water or grape concentrate.
Rack again at 13 weeks old, then 25 weeks.
Back sweeten to your own taste!
Bottle or if you can leave to bulk age for 3 to 6 months then bottle.