Wednesday, 7 October 2015

How to make the best sloe gin

How to make the best sloe gin

If you're brave enough to try the humble sloe on its own, you may find your face replicates that of a child tasting a lemon for the first time.  But with a dash of persistence and a dollop of patience, the astringent sloe can be transformed into a moreish liqueur that will warm your cockles on a cold day out in the field.

Sloes are part of the same family as plums, cherries and peaches and are the fruit of the blackthorn.  A densely growing bush, packed with thorns, it’s often used in hedgerows to keep livestock in check.

While the berries are usually ripe for picking in October or November, an excess of rain and low temperatures uncommon for the season have caused the sloes to start fruiting early.  So we are in for a bumper harvest this year. Tradition has it that many folk still wait for the first frost before they pick their sloes, indicating the sloes had been around long enough to be ripe.  However, the wet Summer means sloes are turning blue already.  A good way to check if they are ripe is to pop one in your mouth and if you can bare it, they are ready.  If your lips try to peel themselves away from your gums, they will need some more time.

Pick the sloes that have ripened in the sunshine, as these will be sweeter than those in the shade. It's best practice to pick from waist height upwards - this will leave plenty on the bushes for the wildlife and means you will collect the cleanest berries.

Now you have your sloes, here's how to make your sloe gin.  You will need;

Sloes (of course)
A decent Gin - enough to fill your bottle(s) of choice
Air tight bottle(s)
Caster Sugar

You will need enough sloes to half-fill the bottle(s) of your choice.  If you've had a successful picking spree it's a good idea to make batches.  The longer you leave your gin the better, so anything you don't drink this year will be fantastic next year.

Pop your sloes in the freezer overnight.  This will simulate the first frost, causing the skin to split on the berries, releasing their natural sweetness. Sterilise your bottles and half fill with the frozen sloes, and to the top with the gin.  Make sure you use a decent gin, cheap gin doesn't really do justice to your hard work.  Add two big spoonfuls of caster sugar and shake well for a minute.

Lay your full bottle on its side out of direct sunlight, preferably in a dark environment and twist the bottle 180 degrees every other day for two months.

Your beautifully prepared gin is best served on a crisp Winter day.


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