Thursday, 8 March 2012

Making Sloe Gin Out of Season

Normally making sloe gin would be an autumn/winter activity, often made just in time for Christmas presents. But we picked so many sloes last autumn that we couldn't afford to buy enough gin for all of them! So we stashed what we had left in the freezer and pretty much forgot about them until this week when we came to defrost it. So this week I ended up making spring sloe gin! It is a simple assembly job really, and sloe gin is a big favourite of mine so I like to make as much as possible when we can get sloes.

We gathered our sloes in the woods nearby where we live. Once you know what you're looking for you'll find that sloe bushes are all over the place in the woodlands and hedges here in the UK. Here is a handy online guide to recognising wild sloes, along with rosehips and blackberries.

My recipe for sloe gin comes from one of my absolute favourite and most used recipe books, The River Cottage Preserves Handbook. You will need 450g sloes, 450g granulated sugar and 600ml gin (it can be the cheap stuff!). Traditionally you are meant to prick all the sloes individually, but for reasons I don't completely understand, instead of doing this you can simply freeze them, which has the same effect. You then mix your sloes, gin and sugar in a large clean jar and put it somewhere cool and dark. Give it a shake every now and then to make sure the sugar dissolves.
Most recipes say that you should strain it to remove the sloes and rebottle the gin after a month or so. I must say, with our last batch of sloe gin, we left it all in the jar, sloes and all, for about a year, and never removed them except to serve, and it was really great. I was amazed how much better it was than shop bought sloe gin, plus it is cheap and easy to make and a good excuse for a walk in the woods. And since you can freeze sloes, you can pretty much make it whenever funds allow you to buy the gin!

I'll have to post some of my favourite sloe gin based drinks once we break open this lot later in the year. Happy preserving - and drinking!

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