People on Brick Hill knew how to forage on the Common. They knew how to gather fruit and flowers, and how to use them – for example for home made wine.
Brick Hill had a thriving tradition of home made wine. Many people made it.
Lilian Millard produced a range of wines. She was once clearing out her cupboards where it was stored when the curate popped in for a visit. She hospitably offered him a few samples. He happily agreed, merrily sipping them. Then he paused. “After that,” he said, “You’d better give me some coffee.”
Joan Weymouth carried on the tradition, branching out into sloe gin. As she needed to bottle it, she was lucky to get some gin bottles, still with a touch of gin in them, from one of her clients.
Tony Lovejoy’s mother also made wine. Her rhubarb wine tasted wonderful, but was unexpectedly strong.
Elderflowers in bloom in Valley End. For Elderflower Wine, “Pick Elderflowers that are fragrant and at their peak.”
The women in Dave Hizzey’s family had skilled hands with wine.
“My great grandma was a great homemade winemaker, as my Mum was. Apparently when my Mum first went there, in the little shed in bottom of the garden the wine was all in proper barrels, draped in wet sacks, to keep them cool in the summer.
“The best wine my Mum ever made that I really liked was a Cumberland Brandy, and that was wheat, and raisins or something. Then she made elderflower – she never made elderberry, I don’t know why, perhaps she didn’t like them, and broom, with the flowers from the broom. I think you can do it with gorse as well, but it’s a job to pluck the flowers. They were great lovers of dandelion wine.
“I can remember as a kid my Mum used to say, “Oh, your Dad’s gone to get his bottle filled,” because my Gran lived next door, and my Dad used to go and say goodnight to his Mum every night. But she’d have a jug of wine which she’d made, because she used to make it as well, and a glass, and I don’t mean a wine glass I mean a tumbler, full of wine as well. He’d empty the jug, and you really don’t know how strong that stuff is. He used to come back a bit wobbly.” (David Hizzey.)
If you fancy making a homemade wine, here are recipes from Surrey in the 1930s.
“For Broom wine -take 4 pints of broom flowers.” Broom blossoming on Chobham Common. (Photograph by Roy Smithers, courtesy of Mark Stroud.)
Collected from Chobham W.I. in 1932.
3 lbs. Grapes.
3 lbs. Sugar.
1 gallon Water.
Put the grapes in a large pan with the stalks on, and cover with a gallon of boiling water. Leave for ten days, then with a wooden spoon press them to the side of the pan to beak them, strain through a fine cloth, add the sugar, stir well, and leave for 24 hours, stir well again and put into bottles; each one must be filled to the top, as the froth works out fill up again. After about two weeks the corks could be put in but not very tight for a few days – CORKS, not screw stoppers. The grapes should be picked before cold nights come on or they will get mildew.
Or, if you can’t pick own grapes before the nights grow cold, you could try something else.
Collected from Wrecclesham W. I. in 1932.
A half a gallon of small potatoes.
3 and a half lbs. Demerara sugar.
1 gallon water.
(Use potatoes which would otherwise be thrown away.)
Well wash potatoes, boil until tender but not smash, strain into a pan containing sugar and fruit, when dissolved boil again 30 minutes, when cool add a little yeast and set to work, extra water may be added when boiling to allow for wasting. Bottles or jars must be kept filled up while working.
And if you would like a liqueur –
Collected from Pirbright W. I. in 1932.
1 gallon Gin.
8 Seville Oranges – the rinds.
8 Lemons – pared very thin.
2 lbs. Loaf Sugar.
Steep the rinds of the oranges and lemons and the sugar in the gin for 6 days, stirring twice a day and then strain and bottle off.
I have not tried these recipes myself, but if anyone uses one please let us know how it turns out!
With many thanks to David Hizzey, Joan Weymouth, and Tony Lovejoy.
“The Surrey cookery book: recipes and remedies old and new: contributed by 50 Women’s Institutes.” Compiled by Miss Adeline Maclean: assisted by Miss Evelyn Thompson. Guildford 1932.