The hedgerows seem to be full of sloes this year, so an ideal time to be making a winter favourite, sloe gin. The dark red, liqueur-like drink goes well with fruit cakes or pastries, many cheeses and is excellent for adding flavour to your home-made mincemeat.
When I first started making sloe gin I only had the recipes that I found in home wine-making books and which were themselves quite old so that they tended to start with statements such as:
“Take two quarts of gin...”
and which consequently had to be scaled down.
This recipe is from Sarah Raven and doesn’t require two quarts of gin just to get started, although scaling it up is entirely your own decision.
For one batch you will need:
- 450g sloes (or damsons if you prefer)
- 75cl bottle of gin
- 250g of sugar, can be ordinary granulated or caster
- Handful of roasted almonds
Make sure that the damsons or sloes are dry and remove any stems. Prick each fruit with a fork or a darning needle, no need to use your best cutlery here, a cheaper fork often has slighter sharper tines which makes the job quicker and easier. If you're doing a large batch and can't face pricking every one, you can put the damsons in the freezer overnight which has the same effect as a frost on the sloes; this breaks the skins, but doesn't affect the flavour. Put the damsons or sloes into a large, clean jar, Kilner jars are perfect for the job. Add the gin, the sugar and the roasted almonds.
Seal the jar tightly and put in a dark place for 2-3 months, turning it as often as you remember - ideally every few days - until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Then strain the liquid and discard the almonds and sloes or damsons. (Try the discarded damsons on top of ice cream or yoghurt but do watch out for the stones.)
Taste the gin and check that it's sweet enough. This recipe has less sugar than you'll see in other recipes, but you can add a little more if you wish, just like salt, you can always add more, you can’t take any out.
When adding sugar, turn the jar vigorously until it dissolves.
Pour the gin through a funnel into a dry, warm bottle or a collection of nicely shaped bottles for presents, and seal.
Label and date the bottles. It will keep indefinitely.
Sloes image published on Wikipedia Commons by Martin Olsson under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).
Jars image published on Wikipedia Commons by Malcolm Murdoch under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL).