It’s that wintery time of year again to dig out our easy recipe and start to make a small batch of sloe gin in readiness for those darker evenings at home with friends and family leading up to Christmas.
Sloe or “Sloh” gin in Olde English dates back to the 17th century and is a quintessentially British liqueur where rich, inky, dark Sloe berries are foraged from the Blackthorn trees (“Prunus spinosa”) in hedgerows and then are steeped in gin.
Blackthorns can grow to over 6-7 meters and can live up to 100 years. An easy and authoritative online source to find Blackthorn is the National Biodiversity Network record. Foraging for sloes can be a lot of fun but we all have a responsibility to forage sustainably, be safe, remain within the law and ask permission.
Some simple guidance is to take no more than you plan to use and ensure there is enough left for birds and other animals to eat. Stick to paths and take care not to trample down or damage areas you are collecting from. Uprooting plants is harmful so pick berries with care, in moderation, and avoid damaging plant roots. Any destruction may contravene Schedule 8 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981)
The Blackthorn is botanically a small plum tree and the sloes are ready to forage from lates September/October but it’s well worth waiting until after the first frost or when they are at their softest when there are signs of them dropping naturally to the ground.
The climate and weather conditions particularly in the Spring and Summer plays an important part in the annual yield of sloes. Too dry and the sloes will be small and shrivelled. Too wet and cold and they will not grow. Well-ripened sloes need the perfect balance of warmth and water. The Sloe berries will often have a white powdery bloom, which is a yeast fungus and should be washed and sorted before using or freezing.
Our recipe suggests you use Fossil Coast Gins 40% ABV. Sloe gin combines the gin with sugar and sloe berries and the alcohol level drops overtime to approximately 20%.
70cl bottle of “Lime Stone” by Fossil Coast Gin
450g sloes berries
225g caster sugar
1-litre size Kilner jar or smaller or larger
Wash, pick over, sort and dry your sloes to remove any stems and any debris. At this point, you can either put them in the freezer overnight to break the berry skins or using a stainless steel fork or cocktail stick, prick each sloe and immediately place them in a larger Kilner glass jar.
Add the measures of sugar and gin into a glass Kilner jar and seal. Shake and store in a cool darkened place. Check every day for seven days and shake well until the sugar is dissolved and then leave for up to 3 months. It will take at least four weeks for your sloe gin to take on a really rich flavour and colour of the berries.
Using muslin-lined sieve strain the sloe gin from the Kilner glass jar into a measuring jug and carefully decant into a cleaned recycled 70cl or 50cl nocturne gin bottle used by Fossil Coast Gin. The sloe gin is now ready to serve and drink.