Sloe gin – the making of

Over the last couple of months, the hedgerows have been full of autumnal fruits and I am never one to pass up free food. Once upon a time, I used to brew my own wine and had some great successes over the years; it was time to renew that passion and turn the bounty of the hedgerows into some quaffable delights. I set about brewing wine from black berries, elderberries and apples.

However, we are not here to talk about hedgerow wines; this is a gin blog after all.

Something that was in abundance as I collected various edible berries, was sloes. What can you make with sloes? That’s right, sloe gin.

So, we invited friends over and spent an hour or so picking sloes. We horrified the children by persuading them to try sloes and spent a rather pleasant afternoon plundering the fruits of the countryside.

We collected just enough sloes to create a gallon of sloe gin. Recipes vary wildly for sloe gin, so I took a view of several and picked a middle-ground; here it is.

Sloe gin recipe:

  • 3 litres gin
  • Half a demijohn of sloes
  • 1kg unrefined caster sugar
  • 1 slack-handful of sliced almonds
  • 4 slices ginger
Frozen Sloes

Frozen Sloes

I decided to add the ginger to give it a little gingery kick – hopefully not enough to dominate, but just enough to add a subtle warmth to enhance the warmth of the drinking experience.

I froze the sloes to simulate that much-sought first frost; this serves to pierce the cell membranes and mobilise the juice. Upon thawing, the sloes had turned from solid little berries into squishy bags of bitter juice.

It is recommended that you pierce each sloe to allow the juices to be drawn out, but I went with popping them; splitting the skin should serve the same purpose.

The sloes were layered with sugar in the demijohn to begin the juice extraction. I left this for a while before chucking in the almonds and ginger, and then the gin.

The colour immediately started to bleed-out from the skins and after a good few shakes, I had a demijohn full of slightly pink spirit.

Leaving the sloe gin to steep for a few months should see it ready for Christmas, but I have heard that leaving it for a full year will see its flavours mellow significantly; with three litres on the go, I can lay a couple of bottles down for a year and drink the rest over Christmas and New Year.

Gin-gin.

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