Monday, July 20, 2009

Plums and Brandy

Many moons ago, I posted about my attempts to make brandy from a surfeit of plums foisted on me by my sister. Over the intervening months one of the most common search topics that has brought strange visitors to this place is that of recipes for plum brandy. Obviously the interweb is awash with boozy types looking for new things to do with their plums.

I have to confess to having done nothing whatsoever about my two different brews since I bottled them over eighteen months ago. They have sat at the back of the shelving in the basement, hidden by many things that are themselves in turn hidden by things I have had little use for of late.

Not content with just visiting this place and being disappointed with the lack of useful information, however, Anita recently heckled me in comments, demanding news. I have, therefore, been forced to revisit the dust-clad bottles in order to see what lurked within.

note the lovely sludge in the bottom - that's quality that is

Cleaned up, they revealed two dark golden liquids, one slightly lighter than t'other. Both were as clear as a very clear thing, apart from some murk sludge lurking at the bottom of each bottle. The darker of the two had the most sludge, if that makes sense.

Now those who have followed the links back, or who are of extraordinary memory capacity, will recall that I made two different types of plum brandy. One was constructed much as one would sloe gin - with pitted plums, sugar and vodka sloshed together in a large jar and left to sit for a while. The other recipe involved covering the plums in sugar and letting the natural juices ooze out, before cutting the resulting plummy syrupy goodness with some cheap whisky.

The problem is, I can't remember which one is which. You will notice that the two bottles have not been labelled. This is not all of the plum brandy - there are two 70cl bottles and a little left over in a small kilner jar. One of the 70cl bottles previously contained the cheap whisky I used to cut the syrup, so my best guess is that's the plum liqueur version. The other 70cl bottle previously contained vermouth, which is one ingredient I didn't add. I remember chucking some old leftover brandy in with the vodka though.

Anyway, to the tasting. After all, that's all you boozy lot are interested in, right?

probably not the best picture in the world

The glass on the left contains liquid from the bottle on the left in the other picture. This is the slightly darker one, and if I had to make a guess, I'd say this was the liqueur - made by sooking the plums in sugar until all the juices had oozed out and started to ferment. It's the thicker of the two drinks and much sweeter than its fellow. My tasting notes start off 'Sweet, syrupy, slight taste of plums - mostly sugar, peppery afterbite, v.drinkable, cedarwood,' and then they start to become indecipherable. Of the two, I think this was the most enjoyable.

The glass on the right had an odd aroma to it, which I couldn't readily pin down at first. My notes are 'Thinner, less sweet but still very sweet, taste of cheap whisky coming through?, off aroma - wet grass?, bitter aftertaste, can taste plums and stones,' and then the writing again loses all legibility.

Both of these were tasted at basement temperature, which at the moment is cool but not chilled. Yesterday evening, when I carried out the tasting, it was cool and damp - a typical Welsh summer day - but not cold. I think the liqueur will be very nice in a hip flask on a nose-reddening winter day. The other one will be good for killing insects maybe, or stripping paint.

So there you have it, my recipes for plum brandy tried and tested. If you find yourself with a surfeit of plums this autumn, I would suggest you give them to your brother-in-law. Failing that, follow the instructions in the original post for extracting the juice using sugar, then cut the resulting syrup with whisky. I'd recommend using something a step above the really cheap stuff - Grants, maybe, or Famous Grouse. Don't use a single malt -that would be particularly wasteful. Be prepared to wait a month or two for it to settle nicely, then rack it off into clear bottles and label them all clearly.

Next time I'll tell you all about my adventures with cherry pie.

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Anonymous Frank Marcopolos said...

I had always thought about brewing my own beer or making my own wine. After reading this, I'm not so sure!

July 21, 2009 12:41 am  
Blogger JamesO said...

Don't be put off by my misadventures, Frank. Beer making is easy and very rewarding. All you need to remember is to keep everything clean. Decent wine is so cheap these days it's hardly worth the effort trying to make it yourself, though some fruit wines can be nice. I made some really good raspberry wine once.

Just remember to label any bottles before you forget what's in them...

July 21, 2009 12:53 pm  
Blogger swallowtail said...

taking notes is essential in a project such as this, and said notes may be the extra boost needed in the publication process for, what was it you were writing?

great post! great photos!

you didn't leave very detail recipe steps, though.

July 22, 2009 9:58 pm  
Blogger Russel said...


I don't think I have an email for you, so...

Stuart Neville's THE TWELVE also has ghosts (well, on one reading of it, anyway)

Just sayin'...

July 29, 2009 6:43 pm  

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