from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software
A postscript to Season of Muddy Dog
The collected sloes lay like shiny glass beads in the colander, I had staggered back from the supermarket with an armful of gin bottles (“Couldn’t you just mention they’re for sloes?” muttered my embarrassed daughter) and amassed my kilner jars. I was all ready for a bottling session.
There’s something very therapeutic about being creative in the kitchen. I felt like a Victorian pharmacist, lovingly creating my recipes and remedies. Or perhaps an old wise woman. (Though not so very wise – having removed the metal bands from my jars, it took me quite a long time to reassemble them. Not so old either…)
The recipes I’d gathered were reassuringly varied. There were slight variations in the quantities of sloes, gin and sugar from recipe to recipe, which confirmed the image in my mind of some little old cottager sloshing in the gin after a swig or two, throwing in the gathered sloes and shaking in handfuls of sugar. Taking a rough average from a selection of recipes, I settled on about 450g of sloes to 1 litre of gin and 220g sugar.
First, prick the sloes. My little cottager might have used a sharp thorn from the Blackthorn, but I found a cocktail stick left over from the last birthday party did the trick very nicely. I like to think the tiny splinter of wood felt at peace meeting its end after engaging in the age-old tradition of liqueur-making rather than being thrust unceremoniously onto a sausage and left to its fate.
Add the sloes to the kilner jar along with the gin and sugar, seal and give it a shake. My recipes told me to leave in a dark cupboard, shaking every day for the first week then weekly for 2-3 months. That fits in well with my natural inclination to initially take the jars out at every opportunity and hold them up to the light, admiring the liquid reddening daily as the sloes steep in their alcoholic bath. Then as the impulse to keep checking wanes, it’s good to know that they are still there, the sloes quietly and steadily infusing the gin with their ruby juices and fruity flavours, while autumn passes and winter creeps in.