My Seville orange gin proved the adage that nothing home-made ever tastes better (but it won’t go to waste) – Stephen Jardine

Precious Seville oranges are harvested and exported to the UK, mostly for making marmalade but, sometimes, to ruin a bottle of gin (Picture: Cristina Quicler/AFP via Getty Images)

Last month in the supermarket I spotted a shelf of Seville oranges, the sort that turn up only in January, like gout, enormous credit card bills and Burns bores. As I watched, they were being snapped up by people who make their own marmalade.

I once tried to make jam and it was an unmitigated disaster so I carried on with the shop safe in the knowledge that people make their own marmalade because the alternative is to stare into the emptiness of their existence.

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Later that week I came across a recipe for Seville orange gin. It couldn’t have been simpler requiring only gin, oranges and sugar to produce a result that would rival any of the expensive flavored gins in the off-license.

Now, I like gin and I like oranges so back in the supermarket that weekend, I decided to spite the marmalade makers by stocking up on both and adding another skill to my name – master distiller.

How hard can it be? Every hamlet and bus stop now has its own make of gin, manufactured by someone with a beard and an HND in drinks studies from Doncaster Community College. It’s just ethanol and flavoring and if someone can get away with making Rhubarbra Streisand gin then surely I can follow a simple recipe and produce something drinkable?

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The actual method was straightforward and it looked fine in the kilner jar before going into a cupboard for a month to develop. The instructions did say I should shake the jar a few times and I may have forgotten about that and used demerara sugar because I didn’t have caster and the cupboard may not have been as dark as it should have been but everything else was fine.

Unfortunately, what emerged weeks later looked like the stuff Robert Barr chucked down the sink in 1901 when he was still searching for his elusive perfect formulation for Irn-Bru. Worst still it was cloudy. Very cloudy.

Looking back at my original recipe, it did suggest passing the finished product through a sieve and some kitchen roll. I did that and it ended up still cloudy but now with added bits of kitchen roll. However with enough tonics and ice, how bad could it be? The answer was tooth-stingingly awful. Remember the advert where the Tango drinker was slapped in the face by an Orange man? It was worse than that.

Of course I should have known, nothing home-made ever tastes better. Bread is fine for a day but then stale, chutney is always acrid, jam is usually runny and homebrew beer is for the kind of man who would like to spend his honeymoon camping at Jeremy Clarkson’s farm if he could ever find a woman to marry him .

The reality is from gin to piccalilli, the people making these products are experts with tried and tested recipes, perfected down the years and, crucially, good safety and hygiene regimes.

However I’m determined my Seville orange gin won’t go to waste. The next time someone brings me a jar of “delicious home made pickles”, I know exactly what they are taking home.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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