They are not for eating, but who cares when you can make the wonderful liqueur, sloe gin?
There is nothing like the excitement of scrabbling about in hedgerows and screaming ‘stop the car!’ during the sloe season. These fruits look a bit like blueberries but actually are quite hard, have stones and are in the plum family. They ripen in late autumn. They are not for eating, but who cares when you can make the wonderful liqueur, sloe gin?
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Experts advise picking sloes after the first frost, but you risk there being
none left if you wait too long. Frost helps soften the fruit and split it, avoiding the need to prick the sloes before starting the gin. You can put
them in a freezer bag in the freezer for a few days, but the pricking
process is all part of the fun.
Sloes are ripe when they are a deep blueberry colour and have a frosty
opacity. When you squeeze them they should be a bit soft – you don’t
Making the sloe gin
If the frost hasn’t done it for you, prick each sloe twice with a darning needle, then put them into a clean wine bottle. When it is half full, add 75–115g (2¾ –4oz) of sugar depending how sweet you like it. Fill up the bottle with gin. Any old gin will do – a supermarket own label 37.5 per cent proof gin will do just fine. Make sure the screw-cap or
cork is pushed in securely and give it a good shake to disperse the sugar. Shake the bottle several times over the next week, as the sugar sinks to
When the sugar is finally dissolved, stick the gin away in a dark cupboard
and leave it alone.
When will it be ready?
Give it a year – or at least six months. It tastes even better after a year or more. Have a sip after several months to check the sweetness and if it is too sharp add some more sugar and keep shaking for a few days, then stick it back in the cupboard.
When it tastes about right, strain it through a bit of muslin (cheesecloth) and dispose of the sloes. They will have imparted the beautiful rose pink colour that characterizes this delicious drink.
Label each bottle with the date and where you found the sloes.
Sloe gin is delicious, if lethal. Your head might not thank you the next day, but you will surely get hooked on the ritual.