Autumn’s here and I’m in my element. I’m a creature of habit, and I like having things to look forward to, and autumn is full of those. Over the last couple of years I’ve really gotten into making a few different cold weather tipples to make things a bit warmer. My favourite by far is Sloe Gin, there’s nothing that even comes close for being warming, fruity, sweet and very, very drinkable!
Sloe gin is a very traditional thing to make over here, people have been adding sloes, bullace and damsons (to name but a few) to gin for years, and it’s very easy to see why. There are loads of traditions and recipes that go into it, depending on where you are and what’s been passed down to it. Recipes vary, but the one golden rule was always to pick sloes after the first frost. That would make sure they weren’t picked until October at the earliest usually, meaning they’d be ripe and juicy. Down here though (Cornwall) we’ve had a pretty warm summer, and as is usually the case, our crops were ready much earlier than that this year. I managed to pick 5 lbs out on a walk with the dogs in the second week of September – get in!
After spending a small fortune on gin it’s time for the very laborious job of getting the sloes ready for the bottles. Again, tradition dictates how you do this, I’ve heard stories about how it’s meant to be done with a pin or a sewing needle. All it really needs to be is something to break the skin to let the juice and colour from the skins to leech out into the gin, so I find the best method for me is to sit down with a big bowl of washed sloes, an empty bottle and a sharp paring knife. I slit each one up one side and pop it in the bottle. It’s pretty mind-numbing, but it means I can watch a film or something while I’m doing it. All that’s left to do then is to add some sugar and put the top on the bottle.
Here are the recipe and proportions I use:
- Take an empty litre bottle of gin and half-fill it with sloes
- Add 150gms of sugar
- Top up with gin (allow a little room at the top of the bottle for turning)
That’s it. After that, turn the bottles every day for a couple of weeks and then once a week for the next couple of months. Ideally you want to leave it for at least three months before you drink it, despite the temptation. After that time, decant the gin into a new bottle. If you get lots of debris and sediment pour it through a coffee filter. They say it’s best left until the following winter for the flavours to mellow, but to be honest mine doesn’t usually make it through until new year . The sloes you’re left with aren’t just ready for the bin either, there are loads of things you can do with them, including making Shlerry and Slider, or my preferred option, chocolate sloe truffles.
Mine’s been in the bottle for nearly two weeks now and is already starting to look rich and tasty. If you’ve got any sloes nearby, get out and get some and have a go, you won’t look back