Making Sloe Gin is one of the most rewarding pastimes in September/October.
Freshly picked sloes
Scroll down for a delicious sloe gin recipe. If you are lucky, and there is an early crop of Sloes, you will have time to make lots of little gift-sized bottles of home-made sloe gin, to give away to friends and family at Christmas… Won’t you be popular this year!
Giving home-made DIY gifts is a great way for you to save money and over the years the savings will add up. Your friends and family will appreciate something that has been made for them by you, everyone who receives something will feel special, and worth your time and effort, and that is a gift in itself.
Of course there is always the option of getting your Grinch on and keeping the lot for yourself.. no one would blame you, as Sloe Gin is purply-red, bottled bliss. One sip spreads a lovely warming glow through your chest, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to cosy winter nights snuggled up on the sofa.
Sloe berries – fruit of the Blackthorn
Where to find Sloes
Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bush, sloes grow in hedgerows all over the UK as a shrub or small tree.
The autumn fruits appear blue at first then they have a slightly cloudy sheen, then turn shiny black. Ready to pick in September/October.
It is best to pick sloes after the first frost, but if you can’t wait that long and there has been an early crop of sloes, simply pop them in the freezer for a few hours before you make your gin.
Just a little warning, don’t try to eat the sloes when you pick them, the fruits are very sharp and tart and not at all tasty. Best to make gin out of them.
How to make Sloe Gin
- Sugar (granulated white sugar or caster sugar is best)
- Gin (shop around to find supermarket cheapest deals or own brand)
Before you start you will need a large, sterilised bottle, jar or demijohn – something that can be sealed (even if you seal it with clingfilm). You could even use the bottles that the gin came in.
Sloe berries – ready to be washed and pricked!
Preparing the Sloes
Once you have picked your Sloes, wash them to remove any dirt, then place in a bowl. Now comes the fun part… prick small holes in each Sloe. You can do this by daintily taking each sloe and piercing its skin with a sewing needle… or you can get a fork and stab up a bowl of them in a hit and miss, let’s get this done stylee. Either way will work. The idea is that by piercing the skin, the juices will be able to flow into the gin and make a much richer tasting and more beautifully coloured drink.
Making the Gin
- Fill a third of your jar, bottle or demijohn with your freshly-pricked sloes
- Add sugar, it will fill the gaps between the sloes, up to about the level of the top of the sloes
- Pour in Gin to cover the sloes and sugar, up to the top of your bottle, glass or demijohn – If you like, you can add complimentary flavours at this point, such as a cinnamon stick or a few drops of almond or vanilla essence
- Seal the jar, bottle or demijohn and give your brew a few swishes to shake the mixture and start the process
- Place your Sloe gin in a dark, cool cupboard and give it a few swishes every day for two or three weeks and then you can leave it to stand. The mixture will continue to deepen in colour and flavour and you can leave it for three or four months
- After the process is complete your mixture will be a beautiful, rich, purply-red colour. Pour this liquid through a sieve (or a square of muslin) into a measuring jug, and from the jug pour into sterilised screw-cap bottles and seal up, they are now ready to give as gifts. Or… pour the sloe gin into a glass and have some immediately… yum yum!
Once sealed in screw-cap bottles the slow gin will keep for years.. but good luck with that, most will be gone by the new year!
Make use of the leftovers
If you don’t want to waste the gin and sugar soaked sloes that are left over at the end of the process… try eating a couple.. or pour vodka or sherry over them, this time don’t add any sugar, seal up the bottle and swish the mix occasionally over a couple of weeks to make a cheeky sloe vodka or sloe sherry –
You can give small bottles of sloe gin as gifts
it won’t have as rich a colour as your first batch of sloe gin, but it’s a great way of adding value to a cheap bottle of vodka or sherry.
Experiment & get creative
You can experiment with the amount of sugar you use each year and with different types of alcohol if you are not a gin fan, there is no set rule when making sloe gin and there are plenty of different recipes out there if you fancy doing a little research.
Get creative if you are making little bottles of sloe gin as gifts, maybe tie a ribbon around the neck or decorate the label with glitter, or perhaps tie a parcel label around the neck and write ‘Drink Me’ on it.
Enjoy, drink responsibly and get used to being incredibly popular – this will tend to happen if you give bottles of home-made alcohol as gifts!
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