It didn't take long to pick the couple of handfuls needed leaving plenty on the blackthorns for another day. As usual we got the curious looks of other walkers but unusually no one asked what we were picking. Sloes are one of the great unrecognised hedgerow fruits, not popular I guess as they are too bitter to eat raw. Leaves all the more for the rest of us then!
So home to make gin. I left them in a warm kitchen to ripen a little more before using and I could I guess have put them in the freezer for a little to simulate frost but I didn't bother this time.
So for sloe gin:
- Bottle of gin - I use a mid quality gin, it isn't worth using the very expensive gins but the cheap "value" ones are harsh especially if you only plan to let it mature for a short time
- Sugar - ordinary granulated is fine
Firstly empty the gin into a jug ( unless you have a suitable bottle already empty of course)
Rinse the sloes removing any stalks or leaves and prick each one with a skewer.
Pour the sugar into the bottle until it is 25-30% full. I like mine less sweet so I use the lesser amount.
Add approximately a third of a bottle of sloes, I tend to be generous but it depends on how many you have
Top up with the gin, screw the lid back on tightly and shake well
Leave the bottle in a convenient place and shake regularly until all the sugar has dissolved. This may take a couple of days if you've used a lot of sugar.
Once all the sugar has dissolved the bottle can be put away to mature. How long you leave it is up to you. Around 3 months is the minimmum but the longer the better really. The bottle above is 4 years old and the bright pinky red drink has softened and mellowed like a tawny port.