I just came across something that caused my ears to prick and get my research gears cranking: Hedgerow Gin. With roots in the British Isles, Hedgerow Gin is a means to preserve the fall’s wild fruit bounty by producing a liqueur for the next year. I was filled with mental images of long hedgerows in the English countryside on a misty fall morning, with the light being ‘just so’, highlighting the changing colors of the season. I knew I needed to learn more and make a batch myself.
There is not a lot written about Hedgerow Gin. I suspect from the little I did find that it is more of a naturally practiced art and one people just know about how to make it rather than one requiring a recipe and tons of background. It seems to be a close relative of ‘Sloe Gin’ which you’ve undoubtedly heard about, though is quite different than the version sold in liquor stores. Sloe gin uses ‘sloes’, a small berry-like fruit which is actually in the plum family. They are combined with gin and sugar and left to sit to make a liqueur.
Hedgerow Gin casts a wider net, often using sloes but only as part of a broader group of fruits found on hedges in the wild. Wild damson plums, bullaces, elderberries, raspberries, blackberries, rosehips, and blueberries are some of the other fruits I’ve read about. The fruit content can be a sole hedgerow fruit or a mixture of your choosing, combined with gin and sugar.
Hedgerow Gin reminds me of Cherry Bounce which dates back in our American history to George Washington and is made with bourbon (though I’ve seen recipes with a variety of liquors), tart cherries and sugar. All these concoctions take mere moments to assemble and sit in a dark pantry awaiting their eventual liquid perfection. In the case of Hedgerow Gin it is suggested it sit for a year. One could imagine an era when seasons were accepted and revered, before the current mono-season of everything being available all the time, how putting by the fall fruits would be celebrated the next fall for what they’d become.
I may get some hand slapping from my British friends for this Yank version of Hedgerow Gin but I’ll chance it. As far as I’ve been able to learn Sloes and Wild Damson plums are not common in the U.S. and not in my area. I am combining raspberries (red and gold) I picked at a local farmette (from a hedgerow), local blackberries, some dried rosehips and Italian prune plums also from a local farm. The plums bear some similarity in shape and flesh tone to Damsons and I’m choosing to embrace the spirit of the drink with their addition in lieu of finding wild plums in my area.
Post Script. Following making this recipe and post I came upon a charming blog from the U.K. with wonderful recipes including Hedgerow Gin. I left the writer a comment and she responded with some information on Hedgerow Gin I wanted to share. To check out her blog, click here: Tarragon & Thyme.
“Hi Toni, have had a peep at your blog – you have the right idea about the Hedgerow Gin. You use what you have on hand. Before the days of supermarkets country people used to put up what they could in the pantry especially if they lived in the villages. These little tippies were often classed as medicinal but it was also part of something special for the festivities to hand to a guest or guests on a cold winter’s night. Soon invigorated the spirit and the soul. Country wines were also very much on the agenda, but in those days too people used to grow their own a lot more and often had a surplus which had to be used up in one way or another. Glad you liked my blog and look forward to you posting too. Take care and welcome, Pattypan”