It is very simple – pick over the soft fruit and discard any berries that are not whole or firm (loganberries in our case but any soft fruit will do and the recipe actually calls for a mixture of soft fruit added as it ripens through the summer). Don’t wash the fruit – it should be clean and dry if freshly picked on a fine day. Weigh the fruit and put it into a large jar (one with a neck wide enough to allow for regular stirring). Add half the weight of the fruit in sugar and then pour in the brandy so that it covers the fruit completely. Stir the fruit, sugar and brandy mixture to dissolve the sugar, but not too violently as you don’t want to break up the soft fruit. Mum thought that she would turn the jar upside down on a regular basis for the next few months rather than stirring the fruit. If there is room in the jar you can add more fruit as it becomes available but you will need to top up the brandy so that it still covers the fruit, and you may want to add a bit more sugar. Keep for a few months and the Hodgkin will be better for it.
Serve your Hodgkin spooned over ice-cream or as a compote to accompany a vanilla cheesecake, a panna cotta, chocolate mousse or any other creamy dessert. I am sure it would be fantastic with French toast, rice pudding or other fairly bland sweet recipes that would benefit from the acidity of the loganberries and the alcoholic warmth of the brandy.
Our vintage title Mrs Beeton’s Jam-making and Preserves has a whole chapter on preserving fruit in brandy, covering everything from apricots to pears. There is also a recipe for sloe gin – another family favourite using sloes garnered from local hedgerows. The task of pricking the sloes is tedious but the resulting ruby liquid is a wonderful winter warmer. Here’s to a very alcoholic, but delicious, Christmas!