Friday, 20 September 2013

Foraged Food: Blackberry Vodka

Aoife, Cambridge

"We've got plenty, we've got blackberries coming out our arses at this stage." Ah, foraging with The Husband, a marriage of poetry and nature. "Get out of that nettle patch, we have plenty of the bloody things." Just a few more, i just need a few more...  

Thankfully, the buckets were overflowing with blackberries before he got totally fed up. My dreams are still haunted by the ripest berries, stuck far above my head. As I haven't grown since i was 12 I should probably invest in a foraging stick to help me reach those bastards.

This time last year, Rachel was busy making blackberry vodka. It sounded delicious and I wanted to give it a go this year. I have been asked many times lately about the brand or quality level of vodka that I use for infusing spirits. My answer has always been that I use a recognisable brand like Russian Standard or Smirnoff depending on what is on special offer. I balk at using anything in the £30 a bottle range and I've worried about using a basic supermarket brand. But I realised I had never actually tried either the expensive or the cheap. I was keen to find out if I could taste the difference once infused with fruit and sugar. So I did what any good scientist would do and set up an experiment!

I started with the reaction vessel. Luckily I had just taken delivery of a batch of new jam jars. All of them were being used for the first time so there were no residues to interfere with the experiment (all were sterilised before use). I wondered if infusing with sugar would make a difference so I decided to try out five different vodkas both with and without sugar. Ten separate experiments.

I picked five vodkas which I hope covers most of the price points in the vodka market. The vodkas chosen were:

Grey Goose  
(40% abv) 700mL £33.95 from The Whiskey Exchange (£48.50/L) (£1.21/L.abv)
Ketel One  
(40% abv) 700mL £23.15 from The Whiskey Exchange (£33.07/L) (£0.83/L.abv)
(37.5% abv) 700mL £13 from Tesco (£18.58/L) (£0.50/L.abv)
Tamova Premium Vodka 
(40% abv) 500mL £9.69 from Aldi (£19.38/L) (£0.48/L.abv)
Tesco Everyday Value Vodka  
(37.5% abv) 700mL £9.70 from Tesco (£13.85/L) (£0.37/L.abv)

As the bottles were different sizes and different alcohol by volume, I've worked out a price per litre as well as a price per litre per percentage of alcohol. It is as you would expect - whatever measurement you use, the "Value" vodka is the cheapest.

I roped a few friends in to taste the vodkas before the infusion began. While not everyone could taste the difference between all vodkas (Rachel being the exception of course) we all agreed that the harshness of the Tesco Value Vodka stood out a mile compared to the other vodkas.

Each jar and equal amounts of blackberries, vodka and sugar (if used) weighed into them. The experiments are currently infusing away in my special cupboard. The results (and lots of blackberry vodka cocktails) will be revealed soon.

P.s. After all my scientific effort, I still had enough blackberries to enjoy a breakfast of left-over banana bread, blackberries and natural yoghurt. Not bad for a morning's work.

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