Some years ago my friend Ted Stanhope described
making wine from unwanted jam; it contains sugar, fruit, and
everything else you needed for a good fermentation. He went on to talk
about a friend of his who used to make the seeds for the raspberry
jam sent out to the troops in the First World War. (it was turnip jam
dyed red, and if there were no seeds, it would have given the game
away) He made them on a lathe, out of oak, and they looked like the real
thing unless you put them under the microscope. It was a sufficiently important job for the guy to be excused
military service, apparently.
Years later I started this website, and received some emails
asking if wine could be made from jam. I sent some replies back, along
the lines of "yes, but if your partner made it, perhaps you should use
other ingredients...". At best, I guess you'd get an inferior-tasting
carmelised wine a bit like bad sherry. At worst, a divorce.
I thought no more of it until I read the obituary of George
Drew in the Daily Telegraph on 19 Nov 2005. I reproduce part of it
Serial escaper whose expertise as a distiller and forger
stood him in good stead in Colditz
Major George Drew, who has died aged 87, helped his fellow
prisoners to cope with the boredom and deprivations of Colditz Castle
during the Second World War by producing potent home-made alcohol.
He and his friend Pat Ferguson first tried to brew from the
sugar and raisins in Red Cross parcels but failed. Then they realised
there was sufficient sugar for fermentation in the turnip jam supplied
by the Germans. Mixing the jam with yeast and water, they used a piece
of purloined drainpipe and a large tin, sealed with plaster-of-paris
from the sick bay, to produce "hooch" for such events as St.
Valentine's and St. Patrick's Days. However, the effects of the more
than 100 per cent proof alcohol could be severe, even leading to
temporary blindness. Dental fillings would fall out. If a man was
having obvious difficulty walking and talking in the castle yard it
was said that he was "jam happy".
When Drew and Fergusson took part in the Channel 4 television
series "Escape from Colditz" in 2000, they made their potion for the
first time since 1945. Taking the first glass before the camera, Drew
said "Dear God", remarked that the smell was not quite as bad as it
used to be, then drank again. "Oh Christ", he gasped.
He found a less lethal diversion in carving some 40 statues
of nude women, though he admitted there was one trouble: "The memory
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