I began thinking about a present as soon as heard that there was to be a family party, and soon came up with the idea of a red-themed hamper. Sometimes I get struck by a wave of anti-consumerism, and horror at the sheer amount of 'stuff' that people seem to own nowadays (myself most definitely included), and luckily this feeling ties in neatly with the idea that home-made and edible gifts are lovely to receive.
A quick browse through my many 'preserves' recipe books provided inspiration aplenty, but I thought I'd share one of the most successful projects with you: Ruby Fizz. Earlier this Summer we had great success with making Elderflower 'Champagne', using this recipe, or something quite like it. To be honest, there are a multitude of different recipes out there, each with varying quantities of elderflower, sugar, water, etc, so take your pick! We soon got to thinking that we could use the same principle to create any kind of alcoholic (and it is alcoholic!) fruit fizz. As we had a basket of the wild plums that I mentioned previously in this post, and a bag of foraged blackberries in the freezer from last Autumn, this seemed the perfect place to start.
Simply crush the fruit - enough to cover the base of a clean washing-up bowl - gently with a potato masher, and add about 500g of sugar. This will seem a lot, but the fermentation process 'eats' some of the sugar, so the finished product shouldn't be too sickly-sweet. Pour on 1 litre of boiling water and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add 2 litres of cold water. This should create the ideal temperature to activate the yeast - add a pinch of dried yeast now. Stir, cover with a clean tea towel, and wait... After a day or two, you should begin to see signs of the fermentation starting. As you can see from the first photo, ours looked rather sinister, like a bubbling swamp! A quick taste will confirm that it is beginning to fizz. After 3 days, scoop out the fruit (pic 2) and then strain into PLASTIC bottles (can't emphasise this enough - read what can happen if you try to use glass), leaving a few cm free at the top. Then leave the bottles for at least a week. Of course, plastic bottles can explode too, so every day I opened the lids very slightly just to let the excess gas escape. You will hear a very satisfying fizzzzzzzzz when you do this. In fact Rob and I began almost racing eachother downstairs in the mornings for the privilege of being the one to do this daily job! You'll see the bottles begin to bulge ominously if you don't do this every day, so be sure not to go away on holiday at this point.
Et voila, Ruby Fizz ready for the hamper. We have also kept a couple of bottles of this. It's several weeks old now and has 'aged' well. It's definitely worth chilling it thoroughly before serving as it remains very 'lively' when opened!
So the fizz went into the hamper alongside the Cherry Jam, Rhubarb and Strawberry Jam, Cherry Ratafia (liqueur) and Raspberry Vinegar (all homemade, and mostly with foraged fruit), and the Ruby Port, Lindt Chocolates and bar of Bourneville Chocolate (bought, obviously) to complete the gift.
Strawberry Cheesecake Cupcakes were made for the afternoon tea, 'dressed' most beautifully once again by some gorgeous Cupcake Wrappers made by the wonderful Dani - check out the website here. I asked Dani if she had suitable wrappers for a Ruby Wedding and she went to the trouble of ordering some new papers, and sending me several samples to choose from. Now that's customer service!
The cupcakes were filled with macerated strawberries, and topped with cream cheese icing, much as I did with the cherry ones earlier in the Summer.
The party was a lovely occasion - many congratulations to Jenny and Bob, and Nick and Gwen!