“What on earth are you doing?” asked my husband, peering over my shoulder at the pungent green soup I was stirring.
“Making nettle beer,” I told him.
“Ah, right.” The relief in his voice that he wasn’t going to have to eat it was tempered with concern that he might have to drink it in the future.
Luckily for me, over the years my husband has got used to me wanting to try out new things. From creating rugs to face cream (it was like axle grease, I don’t recommend it!), knitting socks to making jam and elderflower cordial, he has seen a lot of these experiments come and go. Some, like the socks, have stayed and our feet are warmer for it. There’s always jam in the fridge and the elderflower cordial is now a family tradition. Others have simply been chalked up to experience and won’t see the light of day again.
I’ve always liked making things and have always wanted to try out nettle beer. I remember, whilst quite young, being taken by my Mum to see an elderly friend who warned her not to go into the shed as his nettle ‘pop’ was particularly explosive that year. How wonderful to make something that might actually explode but was still worth making every year!
“Your beer doesn’t smell very nice,” big daughter said, wrinkling up her nose as she came into the kitchen. The worktops were covered with pans of steaming nettles because of course I don’t have one pan big enough.
“Can’t you just buy beer at the supermarket?” asked small daughter.
And that, perhaps, is the point. In an age when it’s easy to buy practically everything you might ever want, and often at the click of a mouse, there’s a satisfaction to be had in creating something for yourself. I love being able to step out of the front door and collect nettles, blackberries and elderflowers to be able to make something that my family can enjoy. It’s all part of the process and although our house smelled rather earthy (think asparagus and sprouts) for a few hours, my beer is now fermenting nicely in the demi-john and will continue to do so for several more weeks.
“Several weeks?” exclaimed big daughter, used to internet-fast activity. “How long is it going to be until you can drink it then?”
“About eight months, the recipe says,” I told her. She looked horrified.
“That’s a lot of effort to put into something you have wait such a long time for.”
This is true, but I’ve had a lovely time making it, I like to watch the air lock bubbling away on the demi-john and in eight months’ time we’ll have beer that you can’t buy in the shops. Who knows what it’s going to taste like, but isn’t that part of the fun? And that is something you can’t buy at the supermarket.