Posts Tagged ‘Devon’
I appreciate that by blogging my Sloe Gin recipe that I have now addressed practically every subject I could poke my beak into. But I am no chef so you won’t be seeing any baking tips from me. I just make a cracking moonshine (even if I do say so myself). I went home to Devon this weekend firstly to visit my family, secondly to pick Sloes. For Sloe Gin you will need the berries, sugar, gin and I add Vanilla pods. You will also need empty sterilised bottles.
The Sloes aren’t fantastic this year and the hedges were practically bare. If you go foraging for them yourself then my tip would be to take a walking stick or umbrella as all the best berries were out of reach, something hooked to pull branches down would have been perfect. As it was three generations of my family found themselves climbing into bushes, along cliffs and into ditches along Berry Head to fill our tubs. The perfect Sloe is slightly firm with a purple sheen over it. Discard any green or wrinkled ones.
Once you’ve heard your berry picking party say “I’m getting fucking bored of this now” (I’m looking at you Mum) then head home and rinse your sloes. One last sense check for rotten ones would be sensible now. Now, mundane and laborious as this is you need to prick each sloe a couple of times over with a needle. Fill your empty bottle with Sloes about a third of the way up, add a generous amount of caster sugar and a vanilla pod.
I never use exact measurements, it’s more about common sense. If the sugar and sloes take up a half of your bottle there’s too much in there. All you need to do now is fill the bottle up with Gin, and you really don’t need to go buy Tanqueray. I made one batch with Gordon’s and one with Lidl’s gin last year and couldn’t tell the difference, the flavour comes from the other ingredients.
Now you need to prove you’re not a snaffling alcoholic as it takes patience. In fact three months is the perfect time. You need to place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark and once a week give the bottles a little shake. Someone once told me they place theirs in the boot of the car as the bottles will get the movement needed for the brewing while you drive so you don’t need to check in on them.
Once your three months is up then strain through a sieve to get rid of the little bits that remain, place the liquid in the bottles and well… get drunk!
(Sloe Gin is lovely over roasted plums and it’s also the perfect late night festival drink, warms your bones)
I am home this weekend full of flu, snot and aching bones (my parents are convinced this is a reaction to London 2012 coming to an end, I’m beginning to actually believe them). In my not so sensible head I decided the first thing I should do on arriving yesterday would be a refreshing open air swim in a Lido fed by fresh seawater. Turns out salt water and the cold are not effective cures and I should have stuck to Lemsip and wearing thick jumpers.
I’ve never really though of Shoalstone as a Lido, it’s always referred to as a pool. But by definition a Lido is a public open air swimming pool and you can’t get more open than this. It sits right on the craggy rocks of Shoalstone beach in Brixham, unimpressed sea gulls look on as people take the plunge and your immediate view is the sea and the rest if Torbay stretching out around it.
It appears children and yours truly were the only ones idiotic enough to risk the occasional clump of seaweed that’s washed over, the limpets clinging to its painted sides and the slightly slimy feel of the concrete. What is surprising is just how warm the water is. My dad tells me September and October are the warmest times of the year to swim in the sea (he didn’t explain the logic but I’ll take his word for it).
What felt odd was getting back into the stride of swimming in salt water as the buoyancy meant my bum kept bobbing up to the surface and I had to work hard to keep it down. Add that to the coastal wind that makes you feel like your swimming against the tide and you get a very tired me. Still, it was nice just floating on my back with no effort when I’d had enough, looking up at a cloudless bright sky.
Also, I can confirm that at the ripe old age of 33 you’re never to old for your mum to stand pool side taking embarrassing photos of you in your goggles and cap. But I did appreciate her holding out the towel ready for me when I got out the pool. With this being Devon I was then able to come home barefoot with said towel wrapped around me. Maybe I’ll try that on the tube on the next Lido I visit back in London, leave a big wet bum print on the Jubilee line and see if I can make it home without being sectioned.
What is sad about Shoalstone Pool is that it is in danger of disappearing. Lifeguards have to be present and Torbay Council will not fund this. At the moment it is looked after solely by volunteers. I believe the local community is fighting hard to set up a charity to save the pool. It is one of the few remaining freshwater pools in the UK, swimming in saltwater felt like I was exfoliating as well as exercising and what’s more it doesn’t cost a penny to use. It was a huge part of my *youth and I would be sad to see it go.
|Temperature:||Warm and salty|
|People doing serious swimming:||Just me. I felt Olympian|
|Men grabbing their danglebobbins a lot:||0|
|Women swimming in sunglasses:||0|
|Kids doing classic “bombing”:||1|
|People dipping their toes with iPhones in hand:||0|
*I snogged David Watts down there when I was a teenager. I fancied him for ages. I still think of him when I hear The Kinks song.
One category I most definitely will never belong to is being part of “the in crowd”. I grew up in Devon where you gained your social status during your teenage years by the success of your beach party. I threw my first and last beach party when I was around 13. I say threw…
First step: Invite people to make the seven mile trek via a one bus only option that takes hours.
Second step: Lie to parents and make out you’re staying at a friend’s house for the night, conveniently a friend that has no landline and lives the opposite end of aforementioned seven mile trek
Third step: Wait at bus station patiently for people to arrive clutching a mixtape of Shakespear’s Sister and Snap.
Fourth step is where it all fell down. I have the patience of a saint (although my Cousin would claim its mild autism) as I waited for one hour… two hours… three, for no one to arrive. At the same moment the dawning realisation crept over me that I was indeed a painfully awkward, slightly odd teenager my parents car came round the corner. I hid. Behind a bottle bank.
I was found crouching behind it with some grapes and a bottle of Evian water. During the inevitable lecture I received once I was dragged back home my Dad quipped “What were you hoping to do with those anyway. Make wine?” My big sister campaigned for me not to be grounded due to the tragedy that I wasn’t even caught with a can of White Lightning. She felt that sorry for me (rightly so)
It doesn’t run in my family, this crippling crapness. My Dad was very much the leader of the pack. Dobie Gray’s track – The In Crowd was his anthem in 1965 when he scampered from London to Devon with his best mates to bunk into *The Dolphin, a Pontins Holiday camp, for the summer.
This blog post is for Dobie Gray, My Dad, all the people who are effortlessly cool. Long may I live in your shadows clutching my wine ingredients. ♥
*It was during this summer my Dad met Mum, his very own version of “You were working as a waitress in a cocktail bar”, except it was a holiday camp. Many years later it would be where I learnt to swim, whistle, sit really still when a bee landed on me and the dance routines to Agadoo and Superman.