It's that time of year; late October/early November when sloes are perfect for picking. In these 'ere parts this year's crop of sloes is better than average and as I've just started this year's batch I thought I'd share with you what I do. For those who aren't familiar with these berries, sloes are the small, dark, bitter berries of the blackthorn bush. Making sloe gin is easy; you can't burn anything and the only skill you need is patience. If you take the time to make your own, you'll be rewarded with a drink that is far superior to the weak, syrupy stuff you typically find in the supermarket. By the way, the quantities and times below are not at all critical.
- a clean and empty 1 litre bottle (I use gin bottles)
- sloes, naturally
- gin, of course
- white sugar
- a funnel small enought to fit into the neck of your bottle
- a small, sharp knife
Pick your sloes from blackthorn bushes in October or November when they are nice and ripe.Wash them in cold water in a bowl and remove the leaves and other crud you've inadvertantly picked aong with the berries.
- Take the empty 1 litre bottle and add half fill it with sloes. I'd estimate this requires about 300g or so of sloes. Use the knife to make a small cut in each sloe before dropping it into the bottle -you want to provide an exit route for the juices.
- Then add approx 120g ordinary white sugar to the bottle. The funnel helps a lot here.
- Fill the bottle with gin (about 700ml I reckon). Leave a small amount of air in the neck of the bottle as you'll find mixing the contents much easier if you do.
- For the first week or so, up-end the bottle once a day. During this time the sugar will dissolve fully and you'll start to see the purple colour developing in the gin.
- Put the bottle in a cool dark place for a few months, upending every week or so (uncritical). Do this for a minimum of 3 months for a decent flavour. In my experience there's little benefit in waiting any longer than 6 months as the flavour is fully developed by then.
- Strain the sloe gin through muslin into a clean bottle, though if you're careful you don't really need the muslin. That's it.
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