It’s the time of year when the hedgerows and bushes are full of lovely, ripe berries. For me, that means getting out in the countryside to collect all manner of nature’s goodies, to whip up into treats for the coming winter months.
After sadly missing out on the sloes last year, I was thrilled to find some blackthorn bushes absolutely laden with perfectly ripe sloes. I gathered plenty, ready to make a whopping batch of sloe gin – a favourite of both mine and my Mum’s, so that’s a Christmas present sorted for her!
I should say at this point, please only forage for berries if you are 100% confident of what you are picking, as picking the wrong berries, could end up quite nasty. Also, be warned – blackthorn bushes have some long and nasty thorns, just waiting for their chance to prick you.
I have to say, I’m not really one for measuring when I make sloe gin, but if you go for 1lb fruit to 1litre of gin, you shouldn’t go far wrong. Start off by giving your sloes a good wash under the cold tap, just to make sure you won’t be adding anything extra to your gin!
Take a large, sterilised mason jar or bottle and set it aside. Here comes the fiddly bit. Sloe berries have very thick skins, so to help their lovely flavour to infuse the gin, you’ll need to prick them several times. I just use a normal needle, once sterilised with boiling water. Prick each berry – minding your fingers, although I usually find I end up with a few stab wounds! – and pop it in the bottle.
Once you’re done, add the gin and then a good helping of caster sugar – about 8oz if you’re a measurer, unlike me!! Pop the lid on the bottle/jar and give it a good shake. That’s it! You’re done for now.
Put your liquid gold somewhere cool and dark and give it a good shake every day, until you can see all of the sugar has dissolved. Then shake it whenever you remember. I find you can’t shake it too much and it becomes quite a habit.
Leave the berries in the gin for as long as you possibly can – some people leave them a year – but I find a good month or so should do the job. Then, strain the gin, have a taste and poor into lovely clean bottles. Make sure it’s sweet enough for your liking, if it’s not, just add more sugar – you can keep tasting over the coming days and weeks – just a spoonful mind or you’ll have none left! Once in their new bottles, put them back in the dark cupboard and leave for as long as you can resist!
These will also make lovely Christmas presents for friends and family.
My gin is still infusing, so I’ll do a follow up once I’m straining and re-bottling.