The recent spell of cold weather means that everything on the allotment is a lot later this year, including the rhubarb. It started well really in early March but slowed right down with April's frosts and lack of rain. Luckily the recent rain has given it a boost and it's now firing on all cylinders so I've been busy this week making my favourite summer tipple - Rhubarb Gin!
It's so easy to make and whilst I'm sure there are lots of other more professional recipes out there, I've been doing this method for the last 8 years and it's never had a complaint yet!!
You will need about 1kg of rhubarb (ideally choose the most red/pink stalks as they give the gin a really lovely colour), 800ml of gin and around 400g of caster sugar.
The key with the ingredients isn't to get too hung up on exact amounts... I've made it with slightly more gin (the bottle wasn't worth keeping for a teeny bit). I've also used less sugar, granulated sugar (as that was all I could get in lockdown!) and even brown sugar - although the colour was more grubby brown than pale pink on that batch.
Gin-wise you can use fancy gin if you like, but I have to say when I have tried to taste the difference between batches made with the good stuff and the Tesco own brand I really struggle to work out which is which! If you are literally having a go at making an infused gin for the first time I'd go cheap and cheerful.
Also just a quick reminder that rhubarb leaves are toxic if eaten so please cut the leaves off and put them in the compost.
Method (brace yourselves its super super simple!)
STEP 1 - is to wash and cut your rhubarb into pieces about 3cm long.
Use as much pink stem as you can. Then pop into a kilner jar or similar big jar that you can close the lid firmly on. Even a big jam jar will work so long as you can get everything in through the neck and seal it up.
STEP 2 - add the sugar on top of the rhubarb, close the lid and give it a bit of a shake so that the sugar can help take the colour and juice from the rhubarb. Leave for 24 hours. This will help extract as much rhubarb juice as possible.
STEP 3 - Now pour your gin into the jar, give it a shake and store it somewhere cool and dark. I usually shake or turn it a few times each day to make sure the sugar moves about and dissolves. After about a week you shouldn't be able to see any sugar left.
STEP 4 - Some recipes say leave it for around 4 weeks but I have to be honest some years I leave it for a whole year! In my experience, so long as the rhubarb hasn't deteriorated or been in sunlight then it's fine to strain and decant anytime after 4-6 weeks... so you could have some ready as early as the middle of June... or alternatively leave some to have in the winter months when you need a reminder of summer tastes (we had some at Christmas this year as we had time on our hands to decant it).
To strain the gin from the fruit I usually use an old (very well boiled) baby muslin tied to an upside down bar stool and over a large bowl. I then decant it into sterilised clean bottles...but you can buy straining bags for making jellies and cordials which work just as well.
And there you have it... a lovely pink summery drink which goes well neat over ice or with tonic.
PS This recipe is something you can adapt with other fragranced plants/fruit. I made a batch of elderflower gin and another of elderflower and rhubarb last year which my lovely friend Alice and I enjoyed in an amusing (and rather too quick) tasting session a few weekends ago when it was sunny! Definitely one to have fun with :)