Sloes and Sloe Gin…all you need to know…

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Our friends Julie and John had a bumper crop of sloe berries this year – they were literally everywhere – and as I was aware that it was nearly time to be making my Sloe Gin again, we helped them clear some from the hedges :)

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This what sloes look like on the bush..

 

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rinsed and frozen, and ready to go

This is my Sloe Gin recipe from 2015, and it works really well..

A quick search of the internet revealed that:

a) Sloes are a member of the plum family, but are very bitter and not edible, and

b) Virtually the only thing you can do with them is make sloe gin…

c) Apparently, it’s the Hawthorn that has the white flowers which produced the sloes. These trees are the ones that provide the wood for the traditional ‘Black-thorn’ walking sticks.

I’ve had a good look around the internet (so you don’t have to) and as always the recipes vary; from people pricking each sloe berry with a pin (I don’t have the personality for that), to my preferred option – freezing them over-night before adding them to the gin. There was also much discussion regarding the addition of sugar. I’m going to follow someone who sounded like he knew what he was talking about, and make a sugar syrup later on to add if it’s needed.

So – here’s the recipe I’m following to make a litre of Sloe Gin:

EQUIPMENT:

  • A kilner jar that holds a litre of Gin; or, you know, two smaller ones, well washed and dried.

INGREDIENTS:

  •  Sloes -(enough to fill your jar about half full) washed, placed in a freezer bag and frozen over-night
  • 200g caster sugar (that way it won’t be too sweet, and we can add a sugar syrup later on if need be)
  •  Gin; 1 Litre. I’d read quite a few warnings regarding the risks of using cheap Gin, so I used a bottle of Gordons which was lying about (I hope Gordon’s isn’t considered a cheap gin; as a non-Gin drinker, I’m not actually sure about this) Anyway, like hall carpet, just buy the best you can afford..
  •  The finely peeled rind of an orange (no white bits please! – I use a potato peeler)
  • a few star anise and a cinnamon stick, broken in two
  • Plus or minus any random Botanical flavours that you fancy – this year I used Bay and Rosemary – it’s growing like a weed in my back garden. I also used lightly crushed black peppercorns last year.

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METHOD:

  • Add your frozen sloes to the jar(s) until it’s half -full.
  • Throw in the sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and orange zest.
  • Add the Gin to the jar until it’s full.

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  • Seal, give it a shake and leave in a cool place for a couple of months (I make this in early October, and it will be ready for Christmas)
  • There are internet rumblings regarding turning it every week/month etc, but the Oracle I consulted said you don’t have to do that if the sloes have been frozen. I turn it every time I go into that cupboard and/or the notion takes me.

When it’s done it should be a beautiful pink shade, and you need to taste it, (as if you needed to be told, eh??).

If it’s too bitter for your taste, make up a sugar syrup of 1-part caster sugar to 2 parts of water, and bring it to the boil until the sugar has dissolved.

Add sugar syrup until it’s reached your equivalent of perfection.. (I know, all that forced tasting – look, do you want to be a cook or not?)

Strain it well, several times.  I used a fine sieve the first time, and then the sieve with a paper coffee filter in it. The proper cooks amongst you will already have pieces of muslin to hand. The paper coffee filter worked very well, and I’ve used a double sheet of kitchen roll effectively too..

Discard the sloes and flavourings. (I think it’s an awful pity to do this, but there is nothing else you can make from the leftovers)

Then bottle it up in pretty, sterilised bottles (you can either boil them, or put them through the dishwasher, then dry in an oven at 100 degrees for about 15 minutes).

NOTES:

  • Add festive labels as desired. You can have great fun with the labels – I found an empty bottle this week with the words  ‘Mother’s Ruin’ on the label.. 😉
  • Hand it over to the lucky recipient with the pomp and ceremony that a gift that has been several months in the making deserves. If they don’t like it, or are not sufficiently impressed, bring it home with you at the end of the evening and cross them off your Christmas card list. :)
  • We’re particularly fond of a little Sloe Gin at the bottom of a Champagne glass, topped off with Prosecco.
  • It’s 2018 and I’m adding a few extra ingredients this year – I’ve got some pink peppercorns, and some fresh Rosemary and Bay from the garden. I won’t know how that goes until Christmas!

 

 

 

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