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The River Cottage Booze Handbook Hardcover – April 14, 2015
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About the Author
JOHN WRIGHT is the author of the River Cottage Handbooks Mushrooms, Edible Seashore, and Hedgerow. As well as writing for national publications, he often appears on the River Cottage television series in the UK.
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I love this book! It gives me an insight into the process of making various types of alcoholic products that I would never be able to do on my own without some guidelines. John Wright is great at describing all the details of the process, and gives you a great overview of what you would need to get started with making alcohol.
One of the questions that came up when reading this book was that the author makes a lot of infusions with vodka. The question we got was - well, why not explain how to actually make vodka. I was able to find the answer in the book. The author is from Britain, and apparently it is illegal in Britain to make your own vodka or brandy. I guess it is illegal in other countries as well, I have never really thought about it. I am not much of a booze person, or a person who would know this sort of thing. But it just made me think why would you, as a homesteader, be buying vodka, to just make an infusion. You will be forever dependent on the store. I know though that making vodka is not an easy process at all, and I don't think I myself would ever want to attempt anything like that.
Infusions have become very popular, but even as a child I often saw grown-ups drinking home made infusions, and everyone seemed to have really loved those.
Basically, if you have a garden with an overflow of fruits of some type, you will want to preserve them, but just making jams might be only one avenue of using your harvest up.
John Wright gives great recipes for infusions, as well as wine, and beer. My parents made cherry wine before, and I never got a recipe of how to do that from them. Well, now I can do this myself using this lovely book. IF only I had an unlimited supply of cherries. I will hold on to this book until we actually have a farm, and an overflow of fruits to use up. For now, I hardly have enough extras for even small amounts of jam or drying. We eat fruit raw and fresh mostly.
I would recommend this book as it has a ton of recipes with very familiar plants and fruits, so the ideas are great in the book, and worth trying them out.
I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.
The book is a series of recipes for the most unusual and delightful drinks divided up into four categories: infusions, wine, cider, and beer. From rose hip vodka to green walnut grappa, from elder flower and gooseberry wine to blackberry cider, from puffed wheat beer to dandelion and burdock beer, it is clear that alcohol is really something of an art form for Wright. These brews are intended to stand out from the crowded shelf of normalcy.
Of course, the proof is in the pudding, and the true test here is whether these recipes are truly drinkable. Since the mint patch in my backyard is in season right now, I decided to follow Wright's recipe for Watermint Vodka (67). My variety is actually chocolate mint, but the infusion was simple to make and turned out quite well within just a couple hours. (I decided to get a little crazy, however, and add some lemon thyme leaves after a few hours. I wouldn't recommend it--the resulting flavor was close to cough syrup.)
One of my favorite parts of the book is Wright's discussion on each recipe. Sometimes he offers tips on where to find various ingredients and how to identify them in the wild, or what sort of cocktails you might make, or how to maintain the correct specific gravity when adding high water content ingredients. All the while he maintains a wonderfully dry sense of humor.
The one downside to the Booze Handbook is that Wright is English, and the book is really aimed at the UK. Though the edition I am reviewing here is the US edition, there are plenty of terms that Wright uses that are unfamiliar to me as an American reader. This gets most problematic when certain ingredients don't even grow (natively) in the US, such as Alexanders. One might expect that in a US edition of a book like this, substitutions would have been made.
Notwithstanding, this book is a pleasing collection of recipes, many of which I intend to try soon. The hardcover edition is gorgeous, with innumerable high quality photographs, thick paper, and a rugged binding. I would recommend it if you enjoy crafting your own beverages from raw ingredients and you're comfortable with the necessity of figuring out substitutions for UK-native ingredients.
DISCLAIMER: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a fair, unbiased review.