Sloe gin

A fortunate side effect of a sponsored walk for my son’s football club yesterday was the discovery of a fantastic place for foraging sloes, blackberries, hawthorn berries and rosehips. Definitely one to remember. Not having the time to stop then we headed back this morning equipped with plenty of empty ice cream tubs for collecting in – after 15 mins we had about 1.5kg of sloes.

Sloes on blackthorn tree
Blackthorn tree laden with sloes

Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn tree and are related to bullace, damsons and plums.  Sloes are the smallest and tartest of these fruits.  The blackthorn is a widespread native hedgerow shrub that you may spot whilst out on a country walk.  They have large spiky thorns which help distinguish them fron anything simliar so it is a good idea to wear gloves when picking them.

Sloe gin is the most popular use of these small tart fruit, although you can also use them in jam and in desserts.

The quantities below are approximate – you can vary to taste:

500g sloes – wash them and remove any remaining stalks and leaves.  Unless you are picking after there has been frost ( lucky you if you can still find them then) pop them into the freezer for a day or two before using  ( although they will be fine left longer if you don’t have time to make the gin then). Defrost before use.

350g sugar ( either granulated or caster)

70g bottle of gin

The easiest way is to split the fruit, sugar and gin between 2 empty 70cl bottles.  It is a good idea to sterilise these first if they have been stored for a while – wash in hot soapy water and dry in a 140 degree C oven for 10 mins.  Allow to cool before using. I usually soak the lids in boiling water during this time.

Once you have added all the ingredients pop on the lids and give them a careful shake.  Store somewhere dark for about 3 months, shaking them occasionally to ensure all the sugar is dissolved.  After this time you can either remove the sloes and decant into a single bottle or just leave them in, which looks nice.

Once you have either decanted or drunk the gin the gin soaked sloes are delicious served with vanilla ice cream ( watch out for the stones) or can be used with fresh sloes in jam.  Alternatively you can add to a bottle of red or white wine and leave for a month to make a fortified wine.

Rhubarb vodka

Rhubarb vodka
Rhubarb vodka

 

Last year I made wine with the rhubarb. Tasted great by Christmas. This year I thought I’d try vodka too – much easier!  You essentially follow the same method you would use when making sloe gin:

500g rhubarb – trimmed, washed and cut into short lengths (young rhubarb is best and gives a nicer pink colour).

250g sugar – I used caster sugar but sure plain granulated sugar would be fine too

1 75cl bottle vodka

1 sterilised container large enough to take all of the above (such as a 1.5litre kilner).

Optional extras – a little vanilla essence, ginger or maybe star anise?

Put the rhubarb pieces into a large bowl and crush a little with a pestle (or a rolling pin) to help release some of the juices.

Put the rhubarb plus any juices that have come out into the jar.

Add the sugar.

Add the vodka.

Give it a good shake and seal the jar.

Give it a good shake every day or two for at least a week to ensure the sugar has all dissolved .

Leave in a dark cupboard for around 2 months, then sieve into a sterilised bottle and enjoy. Imagine it may work well with lemonade.

Don’t throw away the rhubarb – try it with some custard, ice cream ( remember the rhubarb is still raw so cook it first) or mixed in with some fresh rhubarb or other fruit in a crumble.