It’s that time of year where the berries are starting to flush deep reds and purples ready for picking. My absolute favourite thing to do and something that has turned into my little tradition is to make various foraged berry gins, vodkas and whiskeys. The most famous one must be good old sloe gin. In this post I will show you how to make sloe gin.
Getting the sloes
It can be a little a little tricky to find the ripe, deep purple sloes unless you have a patch in your local area that has a few sloe bushes. All I can say is look for the long thorns in the spring and white flowers in early summer; the sloes or Blackthorn bushes will be easier to spot amongst others when looking for the 2cm (ish) spike on the stems. Where I live there are quite a few bushes so I’m lucky really. Sloes are from the wild plum family the same as Damsons or bullaces and if you find some you tend to find lots! You can always freeze the sloes If you find an abundance as they keep really well, I’ve used last years sloes straight from the freezer and it works just as well!
When I was little I remember someone telling my Dad how to make sloe gin and the most important things to remember were to wait till after the first frost and to mark a cross on each sloe before it goes into the gin.
I can hand on heart say I have done this once and it makes no difference to the end result, I never wait for the frost (the birds will eat them by then) and I never cross the skins. They breakdown in the gin regardless. If you really want this effect you can bung them in the freezer and defrost – this imitates the first frost and bursts the skins! This is meant to make for a sweeter gin but sugar is being added anyway so I don’t see the need.
All I tend to do is give them a rinse and pat dry
How to make sloe gin
So my method is pretty laid back, I don’t do any measuring, it’s all by eye and always tastes fab.
I half fill a clean glass container with sloes. I cover these with sugar and I top up to the top of the container with gin (or choosen alcohol)
That’s it. No measuring or weighing. Any glass container. Leave in a cupboard until Christmas and agitate once a week to dissolve the sugar and move the berries.
The longer it’s left the better it will taste but it’s ready to go after about 3 months.
You can add almonds for a twist on flavour or even vanilla. Experiment!