I’ve finally got hold of some sloes (many thanks to @wellyboots1), and started off a batch of home made sloe gin.
For some reason there weren’t many sloes in our neighbourhood this year, possibly due to the strange weather we’ve had over the last few months. If you’re thinking about making your own sloe gin for the first time all you need to do is find a blackthorn bush with some nice ripe little sloes on it in October or November. There’s a handy guide to identification over at the Sloe Biz site so you know what you’re looking for.
Once you’ve sloe’d yourself up, give them a good wash and remove any stray leaves or stalks. You then need to break their skins down a little and there are two options. The first, traditional, way is to use a sterilised needle to prick each sloe several times. The other, easier, way is to freeze them for 48 hours instead. Entirely up to you.
The simplest recipe I have is this one:
- 700ml (70CL) bottle of any London Dry gin
- 320g prepared sloes
- 150g caster sugar
You can leave out up to half of the sugar if you’d prefer a less sweet drink, but the sugar does help the sloe juice to come out of the fruit more easily. Also, you really shouldn’t buy a fancy expensive gin for this, as you’ll lose any delicate flavouring as the sloes take over the bottle. This year I used Waitrose’s economy gin, which is less than £10 a bottle and tastes perfectly fine.
To vary the flavour you can add a few drops of almond essence, or replace some of the sugar with smashed up barley sugar sweets. You can also make spiced sloe gin by adding a quarter of a cinnamon stick, a clove or two and a tiny strip of orange peel.
The method is very simple. Most people say you should use a very large airtight jar or demijohn, but if you don’t have either of these then all you need is the original bottle and a large spotlessly clean jam jar. Here goes:
1. Pour the gin into a jug and cover it.
2. Put the sloes into the empty bottle, where they will take up half to one third of the bottle.
3. Add the sugar to the sloes, giving the bottle a gentle shake, and leave it for a few minutes.
4. Tip up to a third of the fruit and sugar mixture into the clean jam jar.
5. Pour the gin back over the fruit in the bottle and the jam jar. Cap both tightly and give each a good shake to help the sugar dissolve.
6. Store in a cupboard or at least out of direct sunlight, and leave the sloes in the gin for at least eight weeks. Some people even leave the fruit in for twelve months, but there’s a risk of the flavour spoiling. Shake the bottles every day for the first couple of weeks, then one or twice a week for the remaining time.
7. Strain out the fruit using a muslin cloth and return the gin to its original cleaned bottle. Taste a little of the drink to see if it tastes nice and mellow yet. You can then leave the contents to mature in the bottle for a few more weeks or months before drinking – although it never lasts that long in my house.
Do you make your own sloe gin? Please add your own tips and recipes if you like. If not, are you thinking about it this year?