With the landscape changing to one of turning colours of leaves, misty mornings and honey coloured early morning sunshine, I’ve found thoughts have turned to my favourite hedgerow harvest of the year.
Yesterday the time came to make this years supply of Sloe Gin.
Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn bush, a relatively common low growing tree of woodland edges, hedgerows, tracksides and scrub. They are easily spotted in the spring due to their vibrant display of white blossom. I remember where I used to work on the cliffs in Cornwall sometimes in the spring there would be so much blossom it almost looked as if a blanket of late snow had landed.
In the autumn the branches of many sloe bushes are draped in sloes, and if you find a decent patch it doesn’t take too long at all to pick enough to keep yourself well stocked with my favourite fireside tipple. One word of warning though, watch out for the thorns, they can give you quite a splinter, and if left in your skin can turn a bit nasty. But with a bit of care you should be fine.
Some years the sloes can be few and far between, I think this mostly happens when a late frost has hit the blossom hard. But this year there seem to be lots around, go for a walk in the countryside that takes in a few hedgerows and you should be able to find a patch fairly easily.
Now, one of my friends (who I should add makes a fine sloe gin) will definitely be telling me I am too early with this post, he always waits until the first frost before gathering his sloes. But I reckon it doesn’t make much difference, as long as you have waited for them to ripen properly. (I might add I reckon my sloe gin is pretty good too!)
The recipe couldn’t be more simple.
Choose a bottle in which you are going to make it and add sugar.
A quarter is a bit too little and a third is a bit too much, I judge it by eye and reckon the picture above will give a fair idea.
Next add your sloes, roughly the same proportion of the bottle as you used for sugar should be fine.
Lastly fill up with gin. (For the last couple of years I have also been making sloe vodka, which if anything I find even finer than sloe gin.)
Over the next few weeks give the bottle a shake every now and again to help the sugar to dissolve. You will also start to notice the liquor turning a wonderful deep purple colour.
If you make it soon it will probably be ready in time for christmas. However it gets better with time and if you can bear to leave it until this time next year you will find it even better.
As with all home made alchohol I always like to follow the advice once given to me that if you make three times as much you will find it lasts almost twice as long.
Happy sloe hunting.