Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Sloe gin - a how-to guide

  Along with Elderflower cordial, Sloe (Prunus spinosa) gin is usually one of the first dabbles in to wild food that one takes - a real Christmas classic.  Identification is simple, it's quick and easy to make, and tastes delicious, though for instant gratification you may need to look elsewhere, as the maturing process is rather sloe (oof).  Although you can drink Sloe gin after three months, it tastes better with time - I usually give it a year, so it's ready for the following festive period.

I recently found some three year vintage that had been lost at the back of the cupboard, it was extremely smooth and had turned rather syrupy, really very nice!  As with most spirits, time is the key - the longer you leave it, the nicer it'll be.

Sloes were picked on 16/12/13, around half had over ripened, but there were still plenty of ripe Sloes to go round

Sloe silhouette

A note on cheap gin;

Google 'Sloe gin recipe' and you will find pages upon pages of recipes all telling you that the first mistake one makes is to use cheap gin.  I disagree.  At Christmas we did a taste test to see if anyone could taste the difference between the Morrisons Savers used here or an expensive bottle of Bombay Sapphire - the results were quite remarkable;

- 9 of the 10 people preferred the taste of the Morrisons Savers

So, save your money and buy the £9 Savers stuff, instead of the £20 Bombay.  

Pierce the skin with a sharp object

It's best to pick Sloes after the first frost, as it helps to break down the berries and get the juices running.  It's not essential to do this - if you want to pick them early so that your gin has had time to mature before Christmas, then put them in the freezer overnight to kickstart this process.

There are many gin / sugar / Sloe quantity combinations in recipe books and on the internet, I don't like mine too sweet, so hold back on the sugar somewhat - half the weight of the berries is just fine (some recipes suggest equal weights).


- 70cl cheap gin
- 125g granulated sugar
- 250g Sloes (punctured)

Prick Sloes with sharp object (alternatively, put in the freezer overnight so the skin bursts), add Sloes and sugar to the gin in large glass jar.  Shake once a day for a week, then once a week for a month thereafter - the sugar will completely dissolve and the gin will turn a reddish hue. Decant into smaller bottles, you can strain the Sloes out completely leaving just the gin, though I like to add a few Sloes back in to the bottom of the bottle, it looks nice y'see. Leave for at least 3 months, though 1 year + is preferable. 

If you're not fond of drinking straight Sloe gin, it makes a great Pimm's substitute - just add lemonade, fruit, mint, cucumber etc for a refreshing summer drink.

Colour when first mixed

Colour after one month

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