By Neil Henty.
Okay, so this is very much the time of year when, if you are like me, you look at all of the fruit hanging heavy from the hedegrows and from heavy laden trees drooping over other people’s fences and think ‘I really should do something with that’.
For me, the thoughts are caught up with memories of my grandparents. Living on the back of sandy common land, my grandmother was a great jam maker and my grandfather turned pretty much most things into wine. Just seeing elderberries shining on a tree takes me back to watching him keeping a keen eye on the many demijohns bubbling away under the stairs.
Anyway, a couple of years ago, I took the plunge. And decided to make sloe gin. I’d had it before and didn’t like it. Too sweet, too bitter, too… so I can’t really explain why I did, but I’m glad I went for it. I’m also glad I found a great recipe. It’s simple, easy and tastes great. I’ll admit that I found it on the River Cottage website, which credits the show’s forager John as the originator. Which is good enough for me.
You’ll need 280g of washedm ripe sloes, 140g sugar and about 600ml gin or vodka. But here’s the trick, use vodka, not gin. If you use the latter your sloe gin will taste of the gin’s botanicals with sloes and sugar fighting for the spotlight, which can be a bit nasty.
You need just two more things, a 1 litre kilner jar and a great deal of patience. Here’s what you do: Open the lid of the jar, put in the sloes, add the sugar, pour in the vodka, close the lid and shake vigorously. Then put the jar somewhere dark and cool. Every day for a week, give the jar a good shake until all the sugar is dissolved.
Now for the patience. After at least three months, or any time up to a year, strain the liquid using a muslin-lined funnel placed in a bottle, and these make great gifts so nice bottles will pay dividends here. Then cork the bottle, seal it and store once again in a dark cupboard. The instructions get a bit hazy here, something about waiting another year to drink.
You can drink at this point and the flavour is great. I like it as a a sipping drink. If you wait the colour and flavour both deepen.