Here at the Tavern, we have been celebrating the harvest season with a succession of cider-brews. Now the last few apples are dropping from the trees and we have a dozen or so gallons already bottled ready to see us through the winter.
And, following an entertaining and informative exchange of comments on home-distilling courtesy of the redoubtable Leg-Iron, we have been considering turning some of it into something more interesting.
This is, of course a civil offence - though not a criminal one; unless we blow ourselves up in the process, the knock at the door won't be the boys in blue but HMRC's finest demanding their pound of flesh (or rather £20 duty a litre plus a £250 fine).
Leg-Iron suggests freeze-distilling, the method used in New England to make their notorious applejack; this seems to be a method popular with scientists, presumably because they have access to large freezers and, being of an experimental turn of mind, are less likely to worry about the potential methanol content.
Should winter temperatures be suitably severe, we might give it a try. However, the spouse has found, in a book on self-sufficiency, an alternative method involving beer heated in a large copper, a bowl on top to condense the vapour and a floating basin to catch the drips of what it optimistically calls whisky.
It then goes on to warn that distillation may not be legal in your part of the world. Fear not, however; the book has some helpful advice on the subject:
"If some inquisitive fellow comes down the drive, it doesn't take a second to be boiling clothes in the copper, making porridge in the floating basin and bathing the baby in the big flat dish."
It might, admittedly, take us a bit of time to borrow a baby from somewhere, but I feel the writer's attitude to authority strikes exactly the right note - after all, where is the justification for fining householders for preparing their own garden produce for their own consumption?
Whether in sparkling cider or home-made apple brandy, I'll continue to raise a glass to the freedom of the individual and confusion to the revenue men.
Cheers, one and all!