This year's currant crop has been poor. This is it.
There were loads last year. The bushes got a bit out of hand so I consulted a large and authoritative gardening tome and pruned them. Wish I hadn't.
To make the most of my meagre currant crop I decided to have a go at something I've been meaning to make ever since I first read about it in Jenny Baker's wonderful book on English food Kettle Broth to Gooseberry Fool in 1999. Hodgkin is, she says, a Kentish version of the German rumtopf or the French confiture des vieux garçons (bachelor's jam). In all three a variety of summer fruits are mixed with sugar, covered with spirits and left until Christmas by which time you will have glorious alcoholic fruit to eat with ice cream or in a trifle and a beautiful fruity tipple to keep the cold out.
Jenny Baker's book is the only source I have found for Hodgkin. There are very few references on the internet and those I did find I don't provide any more information about it than she does. I'd love to know if it really is something people make or made in Kent.
Whatever you call it, from wherever is comes the principle is the same. You pick soft fruits throughout the summer and layer them in a large preserving jar mixing them with half their weight of sugar and covering with brandy in the case of hodgkin and confiture des vieux garçons and rum in the case of rumtopf. Suitable fruits are; currants, cherries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, plums, greengages, apricots, peaches and nectarines. The last three need to be halved or sliced but the others can be left whole. Citrus fruit are to be avoided.
I have begun my hodgkin with my handful of currants and some of the excellent local cherries we have at the moment. I will not add strawberries as I have a feeling they will take on an unpleasant texture after a few months soaking in brandy. Raspberries and apricots will go in my jar though and maybe some blackberries later in the summer. Meanwhile I await the Ocado man who will be bringing me a new bottle of brandy any minute. There wasn't quite enough to cover the cherries.