The leaves are turning red, there’s a peculiar smell in the air and a certain bite of the cold in the morning…
Here comes the long dark of the Winter months and the time of year to think about making some Sloe Gin to keep you warm. I recall that last year’s sloe volumes weren’t all that impressive but it looks like this season is going to be a bumper harvest. I got out early and picked a bag full of Sloe berries which I allowed to mellow on a tray in the kitchen for a couple of days after picking (I find this makes them a bit softer and easier to prick).
Here’s a photo of one of the bushes I harvested the berries from, you can see the ‘bloom’ on them which (to me) indicates they’re just about ready to go. One or two were a bit hard but you can just leave them on the bush for later picking. The old saying goes that you’re supposed to wait until the first frost but in today’s world of modern wonders you can simulate this by dumping them all in the freezer overnight. When they defrost they should split open, thus facilitation the process of turning regular Gin into something much much better.
I’ve heard from lots of people that you should just use cheap Gin but I find that you get what you put in and this year I’ve gone for some London Dry which I hope will make for something rather special once this stuff has sat until next winter.
Making the stuff couldn’t be easier; washed, pricked sloe berries go into something that you can shake vigorously and won’t mind being left alone for about a year. Add some sugar of about an equal quantity and that’s all you need.
Step One – add it all to the desired jar
Step two – close the lid
Step Three – Give it a shake…
Now put it somewhere out of direct sunlight and avoid letting it get too hot. After a few days all the sugar will have dissolved then give the jar a good shake every other day for two weeks, then once every other week for three or four weeks. After that it’s just a matter of letting it mature and turning it occasionally.Once you think it’s ready strain the entire lot through some muslin cloth into bottles and hand them out to friends and family as winter warmers. I’ve managed to get a rotation happening now where I’m drinking the Gin I made last year and this stuff will be ready for Autumn / Winter 2015.
P.S: Another method I have tried is not adding any sugar until you’re ready to bottle it. When you want to strain it out to decant into bottles make up some thin syrup in a pan with melted sugar and water and then add it to the gin to your taste. Personally though, I like adding the sugar at the start.
P.P.S: Many people talk about adding Almond essence to your batch – It can help, but I prefer the more natural taste of the fruit which is why it’s not included in my list.