Don't mind if I do
We always made sloe gin in the UK. I love furtling around a hedge gathering these tiny wild plums and then transforming them into something rich and fruity to enjoy at Christmas after a bright but cold walk.
Sloe season comes early here. In England the wisdom is to leave them on the blackthorn bushes until the first frost nips and softens them. Here they are ready late August and if you leave it a little too long they shrivel to nothing before you know it. A wander around our boundary last night confirmed that it is time to get this year’s production underway.
First you need to pick your sloes - 450g for each litre of gin. Then the romantic old country lore says to take a thorn from the blackthorn bush and prick each fruit several times. I did that the first year. Now I just put them in a bag and bung them in the freezer for a couple of days. When you defrost them the skins split and job done.
Add sloes and gin to a large, wide-necked bottle along with 225g of caster sugar. Seal and shake.
Store somewhere cool and give it a shake every couple of days for a week then shake once a week until just before Christmas.
Strain through muslin into sterilised bottles and enjoy.
We’ve also made sloe vodka which is lovely if you aren’t a fan of the gin fragrance. We are particularly proud of our eau de vie version, or Sloe de Vie, as it is known.
Bonus fact: sloes are the only things freely available in the hedgerow that our French neighbours have never got around to finding a use for. The gin went down a treat as a digestif for the women but the men couldn’t be tempted away from their cognac.