Sunday, 3 April 2011
Sloes are a strange beast. I always knew what they were, and that they existed, thanks to my Flower Fairies books, but had never noticed one until quite recently. A bitter relative of the damson, they are only really suitable for flavouring alcohol - making the famous Gin, which is where most people encounter them. We harvested ours from the boyfriend's dad's locality in the New Forest; there is a small tree near the railway into Wimbledon from Surbiton and also in the Christian Science carpark near my house. They're around, if you keep looking.
The sloe season is October-November; sloe gin season is from Christmas that year to October next year. It makes excellent G&Ts. Depending on how sloey you want your gin, leave it to steep for 3-6 months to decant in Advent or Lent.
I'm afraid I can't offer you a proper proportion recipe to make Sloe Gin; everyone who makes it has their own ideas of how sweet, sloey or ginny it should be when it's finished. I would recommend making a small amount to slightly different proportions and see which you like best. Here's how we did it:
You Will Need: Harvesting bag/box/bucket, freezer, £££, gin, caster sugar, empty bottles, weighing scales, patience, large jugs, sives, funnels.
1. Go to the supermarket and work out how much 'raw' gin - Gordons or other - you reckon you can afford. Then buy it. Now have a stiff one and try to forget about it. Gin is expensive.
2. Armed with a gin-to-sloes ratio - the BBC reckons a litre wants a pound of fruit - go and pick your sloes! Beware of the large thorns. Pick as many as you need; if you get a few more, they'll keep in the freezer.
3. Freeze the fruit in shopping bags overnight. This splits the skins and allows the juices to get out.
4. Pour one bottle of gin into a jug. Half-fill the empty bottle with sloes; fill the bottle a third of the way up with sugar. Finally, pour as much gin as possible back in using a funnel. Seal the bottle, turn it over and over a few times to mix in the sugar, and leave to stand in a cool dark place like a bedroom cupboard.
5. Repeat until you've run out of bottles or gin, freeze any remaining sloes, and engage Patience.
6. Wait 3-6 months before choosing a long afternoon to Decant.
7. Open the bottles; with a sieve strain the berries out of the liquid into a large jug. Pour the decanted liquid back into the empty bottles using a funnel. If going for consistency, try to mix up the liquids from different bottles in the jug; if trying for taste, endeavour to keep batches separate.
8. Home-made labels and a little purple ribbon can go a long way to making these products into a great summer birthday present, or (if waiting only 3 months) Christmas present.
Glug Glug Glug...