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Autumn is probably my favorite time of the year for foraging – the trees and bushes are heavy with fruit and nuts, and, if you know what you’re looking for, this free food is all around you. To make the most of the health benefits of this wild bounty and to preserve that taste of summer and fall to get us through the winter, I make a truly special infused rum elixir. Now, I don’t generally drink any kind of alcohol, but I make an exception for medicinal use – plus this stuff tastes amazing. It also makes a great gift for those of our friends and family who enjoy a tipple of something extra special.
There’s no absolute set-in-stone recipe. What goes in depends on what goodies I find while foraging. I’ve included the basic recipe I use here, with notes on variations and swaps. But remember, aside from the basic recipe and technique, you can put in whatever you please.
The wild fruit and other goodies I’ve foraged this year include hawthorn berries (mountain ash), rowan berries, rose hips, blackberries, apples, pears, elderberries, and rosemary.
Picked and used fresh, these foraged autumn fruits and herbs are what infuse the rum with potent immune-boosting properties – like an uber-tincture. But let me reassure you that it doesn’t taste like a regular tincture – once it’s ready, it’s beautiful. It tastes of autumn – of harvest.
This immune-boosting elixir is packed full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and antioxidants that can help you avoid cold and flu and can help to relieve symptoms and fight off the illness if you do contract a cold or flu. The ingredients I’ve included in this recipe are all available as tinctures and syrups individually, but here, you get all their benefits in a single, tasty elixir.
This immune-boosting elixir is packed full of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and anti-oxidants that can help you avoid cold and flu and can help to relieve symptoms and fight off the illness if you do contract a cold or flu. The ingredients I've included in this recipe are all available as tinctures and syrups individually, but here, you get all their benefits in a single, tasty elixir.
- 1 big bottle of white rum You can also use regular rum, or, for a more tropical feel, go for a coconut rum.
- 2 sticks of cinnamon
- 2 tsps ground nutmeg
- 2 tsps mixed spice
- 1 lemon
- 1 lime
- 1 orange
- A good-sized chunk of fresh ginger
- 1/4 cup of soft brown sugar You can always add more to sweeten the mixture. You can also substitute the sugar for honey
- Lots of foraged fruits
- Any other fruits of your choice like blueberries and cranberries
This is half the recipe I normally use – because it’s so popular, we give it as gifts to a lot of our friends and family, so we use at least two litres of rum as our base, then double the herbs, spices, sugar, and fruits. Either use a dark glass or ceramic lidded container or a clear glass one that’s big enough to hold your whole bottle of rum, with some room to spare for your additions. I use a big clear Kilner jar with a tap. My grandfather used to use a small ceramic keg that I’d also use if I knew where it went after all these years.
The basic technique is super-simple. Wash your chosen container in hot soapy water and dry it off – if it has a tap like mine, leave it to air-dry with the tap in the open position to ensure there’s no trace of soap residue lurking it there, as it’ll ruin the flavor. Just remember to close the tap before you add your rum!
With the tap firmly closed, add the rum, sugar, and spices. You don’t have to just stick to the cinnamon and nutmeg that I use, although I think these give the best flavor, are warming through the winter, and have their own health benefits.
Wash all the fruit in a colander, thoroughly. Strip the elderberries from their stalks and top and tail the rose hips. Peel the ginger and cut it into thick slices. Next take the orange, lemon, and lime and slice those, too. Next slice the apples and pears – one of each should be enough for a litre. Now add the rest of the fruit you foraged, and don’t forget the rosemary – it boosts the flavor along with the health benefits.
Give it all a good stir, and stick it in a dark, cool space. Stir it every few days and leave to infuse for at least four weeks. You can keep adding fruit and spices until you want to strain and use the rum.
Once you want to start using the elixir, use a coffee filter or piece of muslin in a funnel suspended over a large container, and pour the concoction into the filter. Let it drip slowly – go and do something else, and come back periodically to refill the straining funnel. This is a pretty slow process, but you don't need to be there the whole time – just to top up the strainer. You don't need to do the whole lot at once, either. You can strain a portion and leave the rest to continue to mature. If you're not using rose hips (because they contain irritating hairs), or if you want to pick the rose hips out, making sure you get every single one, you can use the remaining fruit in Christmas puddings, traditional Christmas cake, or other booze fruit pudding recipes.
This seasonal rum is insanely versatile. You can take it as an elixir – taking a tablespoon straight or adding it to a hot drink to evaporate the alcohol every day is a great way of getting an immune boost. You can use it when you’re trying to fight off a cold, to give yourself a general boost, in cocktails or recipes that call for rum. Bottle some of the strained elixir, and give it as gifts. It’ll keep, as long as you keep it dark and cool, for a year or more – but I doubt it’ll stick around that long!
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