Sloe gin – the sticky end

Well, all that chasing around country lanes in the pursuit of sloe berries was well worth it! We finished up with three bottles of sloe gin and two bottles of sloe vodka – result!

After weeks of agitating the bottles once a week (think bell-ringer), the gin and vodka was ready just before Christmas. I carefully poured the liquid off the berries, and into clean wine bottles. The lesson learnt from last year was NOT to try to strain it through a clean cloth. It came out smelling and tasting of washing powder and the whole batch was ruined.

The smell was divine, the liqueur was thick and almost syrupy, and I have to admit I felt rather smug with my little haul.

We had a family get together over Christmas, and I proudly presented my home-made stash of moonshine. The family were dutifully impressed and the sloe gin/vodka took a mighty bashing that afternoon… it was fair to say that it slipped down like honey!

I’d kept one bottle of sloe gin in the pantry to be savoured in small doses throughout 2012, but the rest of it was ‘open house’.

This plan was doomed for disaster. Our pantry is in fact, a glory hole. You’ll find everything from hoovers to lightbulbs in there. It never gets sorted out, and you almost have to hold the stuff in with one hand, to shut the door with the other. Whilst rustling around in there, the other half inadvertently knocked something over. This in turn created an avalanche of junk. Sod’s law dictated that this would not land on the vintage bottle of Cinzano that’s been lurking around in there since time began…oh no… it only went and landed on the treasured bottle of sloe gin.

If you have ever spilt a glass of red wine, you will know how far it travels. Imagine a whole bottle of sticky, red liqueur smashed all over the pantry floor…

The pantry floor was duly emptied and cleaned, but there is still a faint whiff of gin in there – some of it must have gone down the cracks in the tiles. So instead of having a lovely glass of something yummy, I’ll have to make do with sticking my head in the pantry and taking a big lungful of ginny aroma.

The glass that should be full of sloe gin... but is, in fact, empty.

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Sloe gin: in five easy steps

So back we came with our haul of sloe berries. I’d saved four wine bottles to make the sloe gin in (never short of those in our house!), and they were clean and de-labelled.

Step one: remove all stalks, leaves, earwigs and spiders and wash the berries through a colander.

Step two: prick the berries a good few times with a clean needle, and fill each bottle to about half way.

Step three: put about half a cup (about 4oz)  of sugar into each bottle, on top of the berries.

Step four: put half a 75cl bottle of gin into each bottle, and top the bottles up with berries.

Step five: keep in a cool, dark place and turn the bottles regularly from now until Christmas. (A vigorous shake to start them off, then a twice weekly turn upside down and back should do the trick.

A couple of weeks before Christmas,  separate the gin (yum!) from the berries (bleugh!) . There you have it!

 

Enough berries leftover to experiement with sloe vodka

Sloe gin: the harvest

It’s an annual tradition for me and the 13 year old to venture out into the wilderness to collect sloe berries for the Christmas gin. We’d been told of a new location where apparently the hedgerow was bursting at the seams with them.

The first time we went, we made absolutely sure that we were picking sloes, and not some ‘berry of death’ (might make an interesting conversation piece, but we wouldn’t be invited back again). Sloes are a bit like miniature plums, but slightly smaller than a marble. They’re purple, with a cloudy skin, and a small stone inside. Some say not to pick them until October/November, but we’ve found that by then they have either been eaten by the birds or picked already. Get the ones higher up – they will be riper as they have had more sun.

So there we were, in the idyllic Leicestershire countryside with the canal running through, and you could almost imagine someone in a field somewhere drinking ‘lashings of ginger beer’. It soon became apparent that our  informant was indeed correct: there were LOADS of sloes around!

Our bountiful harvest of sloes

But peace was to be shattered. In a neighbouring farm, we thought someone was teaching someone else how to drive a tractor. We heard, “turn the wheel,” then a slightly more panicked, “turn the wheel,” then a truly ear-shattering, “TURN THE F****KING WHEEL!” Bemused at who could be making such a racket, we dashed up the lane to have a look.

Turned out that the shouter was actually in the digger scoop of a tractor, trying to do some work on a barn roof. Someone else was trying to get him there without much success….
Related posts:

Sloe gin in 5 easy steps

Sloe gin: the sticky end