Sloe Gin is one of the tastes I associate with Christmas. This delicious plummy flavoured liqueur is easy to make. Sloes can be found in hedgerows during Autumn and are easy to pick, though the bushes are rather spiky and the fruits are inclined to hide themselves away under the leaves! It is worth freezing a batch as they are not always easy to find: if you find a good source then make a note so you can go back another year! Ideally you should start making your Christmas Sloe Gin around the end of September/start of October as recipe books recommend that it should mature for three months before drinking. We find this gives a rather intense drink, so if like us you prefer a lighter flavoured gin, then it can be left for a shorter time. Made three or so weeks before Christmas gives a pretty rose coloured drink which continues to mature to a rich burgundy colour over the following weeks: I made ours two days ago and I am hoping it will be ready.
This simple recipe is used by both my parents and my father-in-law. I used sloes which had been frozen a year or so ago. A similar drink can be made by substituting damsons and I have also heard of versions using raspberries or blackberries.
8ozs sloes (freshly picked or frozen
8ozs white sugar
Gin, brand not important – about ½bottle (enough to top up the Sloe Gin bottle)
1. Choose a 75cl-1litre bottle with a good screw lid. One that has been previously used to store spirits is ideal. Wash well and dry.
2. Pick the sloes over, removing bits of leaf and stalks. Prick well all over with a fork – a laborious but necessary job as it allows the alcohol to fully penetrate the fruit. Post the sloes into the bottle.
3. Using a kitchen funnel, put the sugar into the bottle on top of the sloes.
4. Top the bottle up with gin and continue to add a little more as the bubbles rise until the level of liquid is about 1inch/2.5cm from the top.
5. Screw the lid on well and invert the bottle 2 or 3 times to mix. Leave in a dark place to infuse. It will be several days before the sugar dissolves.
6. Every day invert the bottle 2 or 3 times, until the sugar has all dissolved. A little more gin can be added if required to top up the bottle.
7. Once the sugar has dissolved the Sloe Gin is ready to drink as a pale version, but will not be fully ready until it has steeped for about 3 months. It is worth straining with a tea strainer to remove any stray pieces of sloe from the drink.
8. After three months the bottle should be emptied, the sloe gin strained to remove the sloes and bits of fruit. The liqueur can now be bottled – if there is any left!