The sloe harvest is well in train now in many parts of the country. These small, tart bundles of pink flesh could transform your gin into a warming memory of autumn leaf colours & leisurely foraging.
Here's the recipe with some ideas for additional flavours and a couple of ideas of how to serve it.
First, pick your sloes. Make sure you have positively identified the tree and its fruit and use a good guide if you're unsure. Watch out for those mischeivious thorns!
When you get your harvest home, give the sloes a good wash, pick out leaves, twigs and bugs. Don't worry if you don't get everything, because you'll be straining the solids off later.
Next, you can either prick each sloe individually with a thorn from the tree or pop them in a bag in the freezer for a day or two (or more).
A sterilised sealed container, big enough to hold sloes, sugar and gin. A demijohn or a 1 litre kilner jar are perfect but you can use something similar. Pretty bottles that you can seal are a great way of presenting your finished gin and make great presents. Gin is the traditional spirit to use for this, but you can just as easily use vodka if you prefer to.
The amount of sugar you use is variable. It will depend on how naturally sweet the sloes are and your preferred taste for the finished drink. I've given you a low-medium amount in the recipe below. Once the sugar had dissolved after a couple of weeks or so, have a taster and see how you like the flavour ratio. You can then adjust with more sugar in incremental amounts until it's just right for you.
Sloe Gin Ingredients
For every 500g of sloes:
- 250g granulated sugar (you can use more or less to taste)
- 750ml (a standard bottle) of gin
- This will make about 900ml of gin
- Take the sloes out of the freezer and squish them just enough to break the skin. If you are not freezing them, prick them so that the spirit and sugar can reach the fruit pulp.
- Put the sloes in your container and tip in the sugar. Depending on your container, you may find a funnel helpful to get the sugar in.
- Tip in the gin and seal the top of the container.
- Shake the container well and leave in a cool, dark place. Shake the container whenever you remember over the next 3-6 months. Eventually the sugar will have dissolved and you'll see the gin take on a delightful pinky/purple colour. If you wish, taste to see whether the sugar content is to yoru taste.
- At the end of your 3-6 month period, strain the gin off the sloes using a double layer of scalded muslin. DO NOT THROW THEM AWAY, all will be revealed in a later blog post. Pour the gin into your clean presentation bottles or your reserved vodka bottle. Label so you remember what it is and when you bottled it.
- Ideally, you will allow the gin to mature for at least a year. See how you get on.
There are some other flavours that can go well with the basic recipe above.
Try adding a cinnamon stick, 4 whole cloves (or allspice berries) and a strip or two or orange zest (without any white pith) to the mix. Strain out when you strain the sloes
Coriander seeds, lightly bruised go fabulously well with fruit and the juniper flavour of gin.
If you are using vodka, lightly bruised coriander seeds would work well. How about including a couple of fresh of dried chillies for some added fire.
Carl Legge lives on the Llyn Peninsula in Wales on a permaculture smallholding and writes a regular blog full of delicious recipes and more. He is currently writing The Permaculture Kitchen, a book of seasonal, local, home-grown delicious recipes for Permanent Publications, the book publishing arm of Permaculture magazine.