Those of you that follow me on Instagram will no doubt be aware that I love to gaze at hedgerows. I'm forever looking at what is growing / changing colour/ appearing / disappearing. I love to photograph what catches my eye and often share these via Instagram stories.
I feel like I have been on 'Sloe watch' for weeks, possibly even months. I have photographs of the sloes when they were first forming on the blackthorn, small and green. More photos of when the first ones started to turn slightly bluish and now many pictures of the purply/blue berries that are ripening nicely.
I confess I don't know why they are called sloes - they are the fruit of the Blackthorn - a tree species that is regularly planted in hedgerows as it can grow nice and densely and has horrible long thorns that make it work as an effective barrier - a perfect hedgerow species. These thorns are really vicious and can do quite a lot of harm - any blackthorn thorn injury should be carefully monitored as it's not unusual for them to nasty and need medical attention.
That aside, I like blackthorn - I love the blossom in the spring, it is one of the early signs I look for that tells me that it's warming up and things are growing. I also like it's elegant leaf - the shape and the colour appeals! When this time of year arrives I enjoy the colour of the fruit, the sloes as they bring their autumn hue to the species.
Sloes aren't nice to eat raw - in fact they are really unpleasant. They are nice in gin however, and it's really simple to make.
I've heard of additional things that people do as part of the process - making a hole in each one with a needle for example... but I haven't ever bothered with that and it tastes pretty good to me.
The ideal timeframe is meant to be that they are picked following the first hard frost of the autumn - early October-ish (but you could cheat and put them in the freezer to artificially do this), and then it is meant to be ready for Christmas. However it's your gin so you can drink it when you like. I wait for it to go a good colour though so a couple of months is quite a good amount of time.
You first need a something to make the Sloe Gin in. It needs a lid, so a bottle or jar is ideal. Eventually you can decant your sloe gin back into the gin bottle but you need something bigger to make it in to begin with as when you add the sloes the volume increases.
Something to consider is the size of sloes (like a small grape) as you need to be able to put the sloes in the container - you might not be able to put them in a really tiny neck of a bottle for example.
I usually use an old 2 litre soft drinks bottle, but as it isn't aesthetically pleasing I've used a small Kilner jar for the photos here!
You will need:
- A bottle or jar with a lid, (see above)
- Sloes -the amount depends on the amount of gin you want to make!
- Gin -a supermarket own brand regular gin is fine (you might want to keep the gin bottle to pour the sloe gin back in in a few weeks time)
- Caster sugar - again the amount will vary depending on the quantity you wish to make
I confess that I have never weighed or measured any of the ingredients while making this. It's all just proportions and so you can vary it depending on the quantity of Sloe Gin you want to end up with... I'd start with finding the container you are going to make the gin in. You can even take it with you when you pick the sloes if that makes it easier. Do bare in mind that you are going to need enough gin to fill the bottle up later though!
You need to pick enough sloes to fill a third (1/3) of the container you are going to make the sloe gin in. You just want the sloes so make sure there aren't any stalks or leaves in the mix.
1 - Add them to the container until it's about a third full. Guesswork is fine!
2 - Next, cover the sloes in caster sugar and let it fill in the gaps around them too
3 - Fill up the container with gin
4 - Put the lid on and then rotate it all a bit to get it mixing and the sugar dissolving.
... and now you need to find somewhere to keep it. Just turn the bottle over occasionally (doesn't need vigorous shaking, but just gentle agitation every now and again).
I usually keep the bottle that the gin was in, and pour the sloe gin back into it (without the sloes) sometime before Christmas and it's ready to drink. I like it mixed with ginger ale as a long drink, particularly on winter weekend evenings while cooking a meal or sitting by the fire.
The October 2020 Free colouring in sheet was of sloes on blackthorn - you can download it by clicking the image below.