Autumn's here! All brown and crisp and sunny and a wee bit cold but still pretty. Frankly, it's the time of year when most foragers stock up their larder as there are soooo many fruits, fungi and foods readily available. One of these includes the sloe berry. These little purple berries grown on prickly bushes, and if you were to taste one your face would take on the appearance of Sylvester McCoy regenerating into Paul McGann. Yes that's a random reference but I love that clip. Mixed with sugar and gin, sloes make for a beautiful liquer that, if you start now, will be ready and delicious by Christmas. That means they make a thoughtful Christmas gift, or an easy source to get sozzled in your own home. Here's a sloe gin recipe to show how to do it. (P.S Please please please make sure you identify sloes correctly. There are many different types of little blue and black berries you don't want to eat. Use a foraging ID book to help you.)
What Are Sloes?
Before we dive into the recipe, let's start with the basics. Sloes are the small, dark-purple fruits of the blackthorn bush. They resemble tiny plums and are known for their tartness and astringent flavor. While eating sloes straight off the bush might not be the most pleasant experience, they become magical when transformed into sloe gin.
Ingredients You'll Need
To make a batch of sloe gin, you'll need the following simple ingredients:
Sloes: You'll need around 500g of ripe sloes. Late September to early October is the best time to pick them when they are at their ripest. They can be frozen so you can pick them when you see them, and keep them in the freezer until you have enough for this recipe.
Gin: You don't need to worry about buying a fancy gin. Get the cheapest bottle you can find in Lidl. It's be absolutely fine because the flavour of the sloes will turn it into a beautiful drink. You'll need about 750ml of gin.
Sugar: Approximately 250g of granulated sugar. You can adjust this to taste if you prefer your sloe gin sweeter or drier.
Optional Spices: You can add some extra flavor by including a few cloves, a cinnamon stick, or a couple of crushed cardamom pods. These are entirely optional and can be adjusted based on your personal preferences. I don't bother because if you get it just a bit wrong, it can add a strange after taste. But if you really like cinnamon, go for it!
The Sloe Gin recipe Method Now that you have your ingredients ready, let's get started with the process: 1. Prepare the Sloes: Wash the sloes and remove any stems and leaves. You can prick them with a fork or freeze them overnight to help break down the fruit and extract more flavor. Freezing also mimics the first frost, which is said to enhance the flavor. However if you wait for the frost before picking them in the first place, you might find someone else has gotten to them first! 2. Combine with Sugar and Gin: Place the prepared sloes in a sterilized glass container or a large, clean jar. These Kilner jars are really sturdy and look fantastic on your shelf too, they are great for making sloe gin in. Add the sugar and gin. Seal the container tightly. 3. Shake and Store: Give the container a jolly good shake to mix everything together. Then, store it in a cool, dark place, like a pantry or cupboard. Make sure to shake the container gently every day for the first week to help dissolve the sugar. 4. Wait Patiently: The hardest part of making sloe gin is waiting. Allow the mixture to steep for at least two months, but ideally, it should mature for about three to six months. The longer you wait, the smoother and more flavorful your sloe gin will become. 5. Strain and Bottle: After the steeping period is over, strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve or muslin cloth to remove the sloes and any sediment. Bottle your homemade sloe gin in clean, sterilized gin bottles like these awesome looking ones. 6. Enjoy: Get it drunk! It's great to have with friends.
What to do with the leftover sloe berries?
Once you have your bottled gin, you'll be left with a load of squishy alcoholic berries. Don't waste them! If you get rid of all the seeds you can add them to ice cream or drizzle over cake or meringue to make it an adult-only dish. You can even squeeze all the juice and gin out them to make some super sour shots!
Enjoy this easy sloe gin recipe
Making your own sloe gin is a delightful autumn tradition that connects you with the changing seasons and rewards you with a rich, fruity liqueur that's perfect for sipping and sharing. With a little patience and creativity, you can craft a homemade sloe gin that captures the essence of autumn and creates lasting memories with loved ones. So, gather your sloes, gin, and a touch of sugar, and embark on this delicious and rewarding journey today!