This week our blog is about the mighty rowanberry. This beautiful orange / red berry comes from the Rowan Tree (Sorbus Aucuparia), also known as the Mountain Ash. Like the Rosa Canina which supplies our rosehips it is a member of the Rose family, Rosaceae. In local folklore the Rowan tree is considered to be lucky and to ward off witches and evil spirits. It has certainly been lucky for us.
Around the home of Biggar Gin the Rowan trees are just coming into bloom about now and so far it looks like it is going to be a good crop. Traditionally a heavy crop of Rowan berries is said to mean a hard winter ahead....the perfect excuse for mulled gin toddies!
We have two special friends of Biggar Gin to thank for our interest in rowanberries as a botanical and who alerted us to its culinary merits.
Firstly, our mother, Liz who makes amazing rowanberry jelly. This is delicious on toast; with a cheese board; stirred into a venison casserole - we get our venison from the deer farm at Carmichael Estate (buy-online) - or even with turkey instead of cranberry sauce. So tasty. Thanks, Mum!
Secondly, our friend Paddy who lives in the beautiful village of Dietnen am Hochkönig in the Austrian Alps where they make an unusual local schnapps from rowanberry or as they say vogelbeere (literally bird berries).
Paddy introduced us to this, which we think is the perfect pick-me-up after a hard day’s skiing. We loved the astringent, bitter-sweet taste of this schnapps and felt sure that the rowans which grow in abundance in the Biggar area had a role to play in Biggar Gin.
We find that the rowanberry adds some sweetness along with some slightly bitter, astringent tones to Biggar Gin that complement and round out the caramel of the rosehips and the spice that comes from pink pepercorns, coriander seeds and cardamon pods. We also get faint tones of marzipan from it! Its is very much an integral part of our gin.
We are very lucky to have a large number of traditional red-berried rowan trees growing in our woodland close to the distillery site. Last year our friends at Landmarkers (www.landmarkers.co.uk) kindly gave us some white-fruiting Japanese rowans to plant in the woodland. We hope to experiment with those in the years to come.
Please note that we advise you not to eat raw Rowan Berries which can be slightly toxic. Much better to enjoy in some of Mum’s rowanberry jelly or in a Biggar Gin!