How to make lockdown Beech Noyau
How to make lockdown Beech Noyau is a departure from my normal blog topics!
But then these are extraordinary times that are resulting in extraordinary activities!
The Coronavirus [Covid-19] pandemic and the resultant lockdown is bringing out the creativeness in everyone.
How did I come across this?
I first came across this gin based drink at the annual RHS Cardiff Spring Flower Show several years ago. A knowledgeable and highly experienced forager was a speaker there and was telling everyone how to make beech noyau. His name is Yun Hider and he offers foraging courses along the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast of south Wales. He’d been supplying restaurants with foraged foods for over 20 years and so I knew that he was the real deal.
I persuaded him to let me taste his beech noyau and I was instantly hooked!
What exactly is Beech Noyau?
Beech noyau is a gin flavoured with beech leaves [Fagus sylvatica].
Thousands of us make sloe gin in the autumn but I was intrigued to learn how to make beech noyau and to make a drink that had a totally different flavour.
I’ve shared this with friends and asked them to guess the drink. Most say a whisky based drink but no-one has yet come up with beech noyau!
It’s a great drink for a hip flask for a walk in the countryside. Unlike sloe gin this is a drink that can be enjoyed all year round. In summer it’s great poured over ice or a little diluted with iced tonic water but, just like a good whisky, I prefer it neat!
How to make lockdown Beech Noyau
The timing with making your lockdown beech noyau is critical!
There are a few days just after bud burst when the newly emerged beech leaves are perfect. Fortunately, not every beech tree comes into leaf at the same time.
The leaves that you need to gather are soft, hairy and of the palest green colour. They are almost translucent at this stage of development.
Gather these and fill a couple of empty bottles with them.
I prefer to use wide mouthed Kilner jars for this. It’s easier for getting the leaves in and out.
I’d recommend cleaning the bottles with boiling water before you use them. This will prevent any unwanted contamination.
It takes about 20-30 minutes to gather enough leaves and to fill the bottles.
Fortunately there are few other trees or hedges that look like beech but do be certain of your identification before gathering.
Once the bottles are full of leaves you then pour gin in to completely cover the leaves. That’s it!
Incidentally you will only need to use cheap gin for this so don’t go wasting your money on something fancy!
I said that was it but actually there is a bit more.
You’ll need to give the bottles a shake every day for three weeks.
I find a good place to put them so that this isn’t forgotten is the bathroom. It’s also quite dark in there and I think that this helps.
After three weeks the gin will have taken on a rich pale brown colour.
Drain the gin from the beech leaves and transfer it to sterilized bottles.
At this stage you should add some sugar [400 grams per litre]. This is best diluted in a couple of cups of warm water first.
You should also add a couple of cups of brandy at this stage. The amount that you add will be down to personal taste but you don’t want to add so much that it masks the beech nut taste!
Seal the bottles and store them for a few months before you just can’t resist the temptation any longer!
I make a few bottles every year and so am invariably drinking beech noyau that is 2 – 3 years old. It does seem to improve with time.
Why not plant your own beech hedge
Planting a native hedge – including beech – is covered in my blog here.