Regular readers of this blog will note that lately I’ve gone crazy on preserves; jam, flavoured sugar, and there’s even more to come. But there’s one area where I haven’t yet dabbled, but have been thinking about for a long time…
Enter the timely arrival of the new book “Booze for Free” by Andy Hamilton, who runs the Selfsufficientish website. As a huge fan of Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s early work I am obsessed with foraging and growing my own, so found this book to be just my cup of tea (so to speak).
Specialising on ways to make drinks (not just confined to the alcoholic variety) out of hedgerow and garden herbs, fruits, and vegetables, this book is a refreshing twist on the norm. I already have several books on wild food (River Cottage: Hedgerow being the most recent), but this takes my love of the subject in a whole new direction.
This isn’t your typical cookbook. There are no fancy pictures of the author, in fact no photographs whatsoever; the closest you get are a few sketches, and even those are in black and white. Despite this, I find myself being drawn by the unusually down-to-earth style of writing – seeing yeast described as something which “eats sugar, pisses alcohol and farts carbon dioxide” is bound to raise a few eyebrows.
As someone who’s only dabbled in home-brew (my Damson Gin recipe is coming soon), I found this book to be useful as well as entertaining. The first section (of 3) is called “The Basics”, and describes everything from equipment needed to sterilisation and foraging. A trip to the local home-brew centre is on the cards this weekend, I think!
The second section is entitled “Recipes”. This is neatly sub-divided into Cider, Beer and Wine, as well as seasons. Recipes contained within include everything from Nettle Ale to Pine Needle Cordial. There’s enough here to grab the attention in a “hey, I know where I can find some of that growing nearby” kind of way.
My honest opinion is that “Booze for Free” is a book-of-the year contender within its field. I found the “no-nonsense” approach to the otherwise complex subject of home-brew entirely refreshing, and Hamilton’s down to earth, funny but knowledgeable style of writing enticing.
This is a book which I’ll be reading again and again (trying out recipes and techniques as I go along), and you’d have to be drunk not to want to do the same!
- Title: Booze for Free
- Author: Andy Hamilton
- Released 01st September 2011
- RRP £9.99 (but available from Amazon at the time of writing for £6.99)