Our friends Julie and John had another bumper crop of sloe berries this year – I’ve never seen them as big and juicy – and as it was nearly time to be making my Sloe Gin again, we popped down to their country home to grab this year’s Sloe Gin main ingredient..
Here’s the Sloe Gin recipe which works really well for me. This will make One Litre of Sloe Gin:
- A kilner jar that holds a litre of Gin; or, you know, two smaller ones, well washed and dried.
- A selection of small – 250ml or thereabouts – sterilized bottles with a good seal.
- Sloes – washed, placed in a freezer bag and frozen over-night, see NOTES. I weighed mine this year and there was just over 300g.
- 100g 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)
- 2-3 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 from my garden. I’ve also used lightly crushed black and pink peppercorns in my time.
- Add your frozen sloes to the jar(s) until it’s half -full.
- Throw in the sugar, star anise, cinnamon stick and orange zest; plus whatever Botanicals you fancy.
- Add the Gin to the jar until it’s full.
- 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 think about it – which is rarely in the run-up to Christmas – and yet it turns out fine, every year!
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??).
Adding sugar to Sloe Gin:
- 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?)
Straining and Bottling up:
- Strain it well, several times. I use a fine sieve first, and then line the sieve with a paper coffee filter or a doubled up sheet of Muslin or kitchen paper.
- Discard/Compost the sloes and flavourings.
- 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).
- Sloes are the black berries found on the Blackthorn bush. This is the same bush that Blackthorn sticks are taken from. You’ll find Sloes growing in hedges all over the country. Don’t confuse them with the red hawthorn berries.
- Sloe berries are a blackish Blue colour and are as bitter as gall – try one and see! Truthfully, they’re only suitable for flavouring Gin! Don’t strip the bush though – leave some for the poor birds in the middle of winter.
- The traditional country lore is that you should wait until after the first hard frost of Winter before you start to pick Sloes – the frost tenderises them and makes it easier to get the flavour out. You can pierce each one with a needle if you like, but I much prefer the lazy-woman’s way of freezing them overnight, in imitation of a hard frost, so that I’ll have my Sloe Gin for Christmas.
- 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.
- We’re particularly fond of a little Sloe Gin at the bottom of a Champagne glass, topped off with Prosecco.