Autumn days are with us now but with the consolation of harvesting the sloe berries from the hedgerows to make Sloe Gin for a winter or Christmas treat. Sloe Gin is a delicious deep, dark, mellow liqueur, made from the fruits of the native Blackthorn trees that line the farm hedgerows. They just need a little time and patience (and nerves of steel if the truth be told) to penetrate the vicious sharp spines where the glossiest plumpest fruits are to be found. This autumn we’ve (I’m using a royal we there as it is actually Charles project and he has the scars to prove it!) made a batch of Sloe gin and read on for a simple recipe for a warming Christmas treat – allow a minimum of two months for it to mature.
Sloe Gin recipe
Wear heavy duty garden gloves or expect to be scratched to pick as many sloes as you have patience for – the best ones are normally deep with the thicket of branches or high above your head. We had a lovely natural hedgerow behind the Italian Garden, away from the traffic fumes, blurring the boundary between garden and countryside and incidentally filling the garden with a sweet scent and froth of white flowers in the spring.
Ideally pick enough to half fill your chosen bottle of Gin. Purist may want to sterilise the bottle and rinse the berries before proceeding
Freeze the berries overnight to kill any little bugs and mimic the first frost to improve the sweetness of the berries. For an optional extra you can then beat the berries to further split the skins or laboriously prick with a fork to release the juices
Add approximately 150 grams of sugar and if like a couple of drops of almond essence.
Now it is a waiting game for the Gin to mature certainly for two months and purist recommend a year – keep the gin in a cool dark place shaking every couple of days to dissolve the sugar. I think we may put them in the back of the car to gently slosh as we drive to the supermarket and back around the country roads.
I’m afraid ours is labelled “drink me Christmas”– by then it should be the colour of a good red wine and delicious as an aperitif, bringing back fond memories of blue skies and glossy black autumn berries as summer fades.
P.S if you like a sweeter Gin just add more sugar by making a sugar syrup – boil sugar and water together in a pan before cooling and adding to taste.