Beech Leaf Noyau
This sweet, nutty, gin-based liqueur can be drunk just three weeks after preparation – though if you can manage to leave it for longer you will be rewarded with an even deeper, more rounded flavour. You’ll need a wide-necked jar with an airtight lid of at least 750ml capacity (or use several smaller ones) and two empty 700ml bottles (one of which could be the bottle the gin comes in).
The name ‘noyau’ comes from the French word for the stones of fruits such as peaches or apricots, which were used to make almond-flavoured liqueurs known as ‘crème de noyau’. This version, using newly emerged beech leaves, is said to originate with the bodgers (forest woodworkers) of the Chiltern hills in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Serve the chilled noyau neat or over ice.
- Young, tender, translucent beech leaves, enough to fill your jars
- 1 × 700ml bottle gin
- 200g caster sugar
- 350ml brandy
- Loosely pack beech leaves into your jar(s), and pour in the gin. Ensure all of the leaves are immersed – use the handle of a clean wooden spoon to push them down if necessary, and remove any that don’t stay submerged. Put the lids on the jars, make a note of the date of bottling, and store in a cool, dark place for at least 3 weeks.
- Strain the infused gin through a sieve into a jug or bowl, allowing the leaves to drip as much gin as possible before you discard them.
- In a separate jug, mix the caster sugar with 350ml warm water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Leave to cool. Add the brandy and cooled sugar water to the gin, mix well and pour into two sterilised 700ml bottles.
- You can either drink the noyau immediately, or leave it to mature for another month or so.
Recipe by Wild Food UK; development and photos by Otherwise for Wild Food UK