How to make Sloe Gin
With Halloween, Bon Fire Night and Christmas all looming, it signifies the perfect time to begin thinking about making the traditional winter-time tipple - sloe gin. Sloe gin is a drink which in recent years seems to be becoming more and more commercialised with many major distilleries making mass-produced versions of it. But this doesn’t change the fact that it’s easily made at home, and often tastes much better too!
Making sloe gin is incredibly easy to do, armed with just a little knowledge and a handful of kitchen tools it really takes little more than time and the cost of a bottle of gin which will be flavoured by the wild sloes.
The sloe is the fruit of the very common bush, the blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Most of us will be familiar with it in one way or another, but of course when collecting ANY wild foods you must be able to identify the species with absolute accuracy, although it really is very easy to ID with a simple guide book.
The Blackthorn tree is usually quite small and often forms an impassable hedgerow boundary due to its heavy blackened branches and formidable thorns which have a nasty habit of leaving the tip inside of wounds, meaning they become infected, so be careful when foraging sloes!
In the summer months the blackthorn produces small, round green fruits which darken with age, and in September they will appear as a purple-blue fruit with a white bloom present on the surface. Sloes are very sour, but they do sweeten with the onset of the first frosts of October and November, which is the customary time to forage these small berries from the hedgerow. If however it’s been a warm year, the berries can be added to the freezer to help sweeten them up, and this will also save time with the tedious job of pricking each fruit which will otherwise need to be done before soaking in the gin.
There are many varied recipes for sloe gin, but the best recipe will be the one that you like the most, and by this I mean that you will need to play around to obtain the desired sweetness. Sloe gin is very easily over-sweetened, so hold back on the sugar if you prefer a more tart taste.
Kilner Jar with rubber seal
Pin (if the sloes were not pre-frozen)
1lb sloes 8oz caster sugar (be careful here, it’s easy to add too much sugar, this amount is too much for my personal taste)
1¾ pint gin of good quality gin
1. Place de-frosted sloes into the sterilised jar. If the sloes are not pre-frozen, each slow will need to be pricked with a pin.
2. Pour in the sugar and the gin, seal tightly with the use of the rubber seal and shake the jar until the sugar begins to dissolve.
3. Store the jar in a cool dark place and shake the jar every other day for a week or two. Then shake once a week until ready to drink.
Your sloe gin will be ready in December, by this time it will have taken on the colour of good claret. It can now be strained and bottled. Some people like to eat the sloes whilst enjoying the drink (watch out for the stones!).
Sloe gin is the perfect drink to enjoy in front of a crackling fire over the festive season with some cheese and biscuits and also makes a wonderful Christmas gift for a loved one.