My experience of sloe gin has been relatively recent. I used to hear people talking about it but never really knew what it was! Until a few years ago that is….. On a walk with the boyf, his mum and the dogs (not long after we’d started seeing each other), I was made to eat an under-ripe sloe berry off the tree, which I was told was the family initiation! I can’t say the horribly sour taste didn’t put me off sloes for a while, but not *too* long afterwards I tried my first sloe gin….and the love affair began.
We made our first batch of sloe gin last year, keeping a bottle for ourselves and to share at dinner parties, as well as making up some mini bottles to go in the Christmas Hampers we made as gifts for friends. It was so rewarding that I vowed to do it again this year, and so a couple of weeks ago we set about foraging for some berries for this year’s batch.
We were a little worried that there weren’t going to be enough about at first, as we’d not seen very many whilst out and about, and it’s not been a good year for such fruits in general. But, as luck would have it, we stumbled on the mother load of berries ripe for the picking, not too far away on Norton Common….and we came home with a couple of kilos! It’s said that you should wait for the first frost before you pick them, and they were certainly looking invitingly blue and bulgy on the cold day we picked them on!
Having found it rather dull work pricking each berry last year, I took some advice from a friend who said that if you freeze the berries instead, you don’t need to prick them at all! But wanting to check before messing it all up, I did a little research and found that we would still need to slash the frozen berries after all! It seems that if you’re very lucky, the berries will split when they freeze, but otherwise you will at least find it easier to prick or slash them once they are frozen.
Other than that bit of tedium though, it really is jolly easy to make your own sloe gin…..you just have to be patient for it to develop!
What you will need:
- 1 litre of gin (or vodka….we are going to try this soon!)
- 500g sloes
- Cocktail sticks
- 220g caster sugar
- Two 2 litre sterilized jars or bottles, with an air-tight lid
- Coffee filter (as fine as you can get)
How to make it:
- Forage your sloes (or buy them from a farmers market or the supermarket), rinse them and take away any leafy bits or stalks
- Freeze them in bags, at least over night
- Remove from the freezer and prick EACH berry with a cocktail stick
- Pop them all into a sterilized jar
- Pour in the sugar, then the gin
- Secure the lid and then give it all a gentle shakey swirl
- Shake once every other day for a week
- Then shake once a week for at least two months (or as long as you can bear to wait!)
- Once you’ve had enough of waiting, strain the gin through a coffee filter placed inside a funnel, and into the other bottle or jar….if you have very fine filters, all the better, although it will take a while to get through!
- Serve neat, with a good tonic water, or with lemonade as you prefer
You can also use your sloe gin to cook with (it’s great with gamey dishes and for rich gravy) or to bake with (add a little to a fruit pie for added lushness, or try making my baked sloe gin cheesecake!). I personally just like to sip it neat from a pretty little glass, although I am rather keen to try a sloe gin cocktail made from our own too!