Sloe Gin Time Again

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

It all started with a malfunctioning clutch, a breakdown truck and a disused railway line. When my car was towed away out of sight, I decided to enjoy the late afternoon sunshine and walk home along the old railway line.

Image of a punus spinosa bush with sloes
A bumper harvest of sloes

And that’s when I saw them – the blackthorn bushes either side of the track, dripping with sloes. Ripe and plump and ready to pick. A bumper harvest of blue-black, powdery drupes, just waiting there patiently, ready for their turn in the gin-bottling limelight.

Containers full of harvested sloes
Gathering sloes

The next day, I was back and ready for a spot of foraging. Rule number 1 for foraging: make sure you know what you are picking! Rule number 2 – leave behind enough for wildlife and other foragers. That was easy this time. There were far more sloes here than I could possibly need.

Assembling the ingredients for sloe gin
Frozen sloes, sugar and gin

Back home, I washed the sloes and weighed them, to give an estimate of how many bottles of gin I would need. Quite a few! The first time I made sloe gin, I diligently pricked each little berry individually. Since then, I’ve found out that freezing the sloes for at least 24 hours very efficiently replaces the role of pricking. The point of pricking is to break the skin to allow the flavours to seep out into the gin. Freezing does this job perfectly and with much less hassle and fewer purplish fingers. It also gave me time to get the car back on the road and pick up my bottles of gin.

Kilner jar containing sloes and sugar
Adding sloes and sugar to the kilner jar

The rest of the process is amazingly simple. Throw the sloes, sugar and gin in a kilner jar or the gin bottle itself. Seal and shake. Leave it for 2-3 months, shaking or turning the jars regularly. Strain the sloe gin through a muslin-lined funnel and pour it into fresh bottles. Drink!

Close up of sloes, gin and sugar in a kilner jar
Sloes nestling in their kilner jars

Some recipes recommend you leave out the sugar at the beginning of the process and add it at the end instead, so that you can adjust the sweetness to your taste. The easiest way to do this is to make a simple syrup by dissolving sugar in warm water (use equal quantities of sugar and water). Add the syrup to the sloe gin in small amounts until you get the perfect sweetness.

Kilner jar lids for making sloe gin
Sealed kilner jars, ready and waiting for Christmas
Sloe Gin Time Again - from Weatherstaff garden design software
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The Weatherstaff Team