The unseasonably warm weather in Kent has delayed the first frosts & without those I cannot pick the hedgerow sloes to follow Granny’s infamous recipe for sloe gin. Sloe gin has been around for a long time & used to be part of the huntin’, shootin,’ fishin’ brigade’s hip flask along with a little cherry brandy. Many farm workers found it more beneficial than an extra jumper on the coldest of winter days.
The recipe is incredibly simple.
First gather your sloes, these are the little black fruits of the blackthorn bush that look like small damsons (they are related) or large black olives. Do not eat them raw! Not poisonous, just unpleasant.
Choose a bottle of gin, nothing flash – good, ordinary variety & pour yourself & a friend a generous measure. This gives sufficient room in the bottle for you to add the sloes. Before the sloes are added to the gin, each one needs to be pricked so the juices can run out. Don’t use a silver fork to do the pricking, the tines will go black. Traditionally the sloes were pricked with a thorn from the same bush. My old granny used to use her hatpin. The pricking process is tedious, hence the friend & pre-poured glasses as recommended earlier.
The proportions for the sloe gin are roughly
500g sloes, 250g sugar 1 litre of gin
If, on reflection, you have not allowed for sufficient displacement of gin, refresh your glass.
Add the pricked sloes & sugar to the gin in a bottle or a wide mouthed Kilner jar & screw down the lid tightly. The ruby red colour of the final product is best if it is stored in the dark.
Each day from now until Christmas give the bottle/jar a good shake to dissolve the sugar & let the juices out of the sloes. Decant the liquid though muslin cloth or a coffee filter into presentation bottles, seal & use whenever you like. The taste can be quite addictive, it’s incredibly warming and can be drunk on its own as a ‘nip’ and goes beautifully with cheese, over ice cream or as a fruit flavouring to cider. Sloe vodka, sloe rum or even sloe brandy can all be made in exactly the same way.
Fingers crossed there’s a frost tonight after all – I’m heading for the hedges tomorrow!