You may recall that recently I have given tap dancing, cheerleading, indoor sky diving, wakeboarding and singing a go, all thanks to a group I belong to with the aim of trying out new experiences. Each month or so one of us has to come up with an activity that we all agree to do – without knowing what it is going to be. There is a maximum amount it can cost and it can’t be too dangerous or scary.
Which is how I found myself llama trekking one Wednesday morning in the Surrey Hills.
It was an interesting morning! It turns out that llamas really do have very distinctive personalities. They also like to eat a lot. I have very limited experience of horses, but my llama, Louis, was like one of those horses that likes to eat everything in sight and needed to be persuaded to move on quite a lot. He was always at the back of the pack. Unlike Running Cloud, who always had to be at the front and spent more time leading his “walker” at quite a pace than the other way round.
Julie and her husband, who run Surrey Hill Llamas, as well as a lovely 16th century country pub, gave up life in the city to buy a herd of llamas. And while we were walking and chatting, Julie was collecting blackberries for her blackberry gin.
And while llama trekking might not be at the top of my activity list in the future, I have been doing a lot of blackberry picking for the gin!
Julie gave me instructions for a litre bottle but when I got home I didn’t have any litre bottles. I was so keen to make it that I worked on 100g of sugar per 100ml of blackberries to make mine. Obviously each bottle will vary unless you weigh the first bottle of blackberries and use that weight as your base for each bottle. And even then I would expect that different blackberries will give different results.
Wash your blackberries carefully and using a clean and sterilised litre bottle, fill the bottle to the top with blackberries.
For a litre bottle you will need a 2lb/1kg bag of sugar. Add as much sugar as you can to the bottle. I used a funnel and kept shaking the bottle and pushing the blackberries and sugar down to get as much in as possible:
You will have a lot of sugar left over. Make sure you keep it separate and if you are making more than one bottle you will need to label each bottle and its sugar. You will be able to add more as the sugar dissolves over the coming weeks. I try to keep the bottle full and add sugar as the level starts to drop. You will also need to turn the bottle regularly or the sugar will just sit in the base.
Keep adding your sugar until you have used it all up. Then leave it until the beginning of December: I assume the idea is to leave it for 2-3 months.
The blackberries then need to be strained off so just the syrupy liquid is left.
Then you just put the syrup back in your bottle and top it up with gin or vodka. I’m going to try both. It will be ready to drink at this stage but if anyone knows if the taste changes and improves with keeping please let me know. I imagine that once the blackberries have been removed the process has finished but I don’t know for sure. I can’t wait until it’s ready and am envisaging some very tasty Christmas presents.
Now to prepare for the next activity: tank driving!