Friday, 16 December 2011

sloe gin

How do you describe a taste? This is a question my friend Ashlie had me thinking about recently (visit her blog if you're in the mood for some inspiration!) If I had to describe the taste of sloe gin, I'd say: it starts off fresh as a frosty morning, with a pink, fruity tang, then grows into a sweet, warm and cosy feeling that spreads through your body.
Hmmm, that kind of makes me sound like an alcoholic. I'm not, I promise - far from it! But I do love sloe gin. One sip is all you need really, and it's the perfect tipple for snowy winter evenings by the fire.
I should really be posting this in the Autumn, which is the time for gathering your sloes from the hedgerows, steeping them in gin and sugar and then pouring them into pretty bottles in time for Christmas. But the truth is I made this 2 years ago, in 2009, and there it sat in a cupboard with the sloes still huddling at the bottom of the old bottle and jar I used, until now!

Last night I finally poured it into pretty bottles to give away, and had a little taste myself (seriously scrumptious - perhaps I should always leave it a couple of years to mature?!) It was just what I needed as a homemade present to give to our lovely neighbours - with whom we picked the sloes one day when we went to walk their dogs with them!

Here's the recipe (to stow away for next Autumn), taken verbatim - becuase I love his style - from Richard Mabey's wonderful book, with which I am occasionally a little obsessed, Food for Free:

"The best time to pick sloes is immediately after the first frost, when the skins have softened and 'bletted' and have become more permeable. Sloe gin made at this time will, providentially, just be ready in time for Christmas.


Pick about 500g (1lb) of the marble-sized berries (do use a glove as the spines are stiff and sharp). If they have not been through a first frost, pierce the skin of each with a skewer, to help the gin and juices mingle more easily. 


Mix the sloes with half their weight of sugar, and then half fill the bottles with this mixture. Pour gin into the bottles until they are nearly full, and seal tightly. Store for at least two months, and shake occasionally to help dissolve and disperse the sugar. The result is a brilliant, deep pink liqueur, sour-sweet and refreshing"


I'm wondering: are sloes (also known as Blackthorn) a British thing?

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