Thursday, 27 October 2011

Gin and bear it!

I have just finished making this year's batch of sloe gin.
I'm sure you've tried it. If not, you must come round and have some of last year's!
It's a garnet, syrupy sweet and tart explosion of taste, followed by a deep warmth which creeps through your veins - just the thing to warm your cockles in winter.

There are no sloes on my allotment, but I'll be taking some of last year's brew along to our next allotment get-together around Bonfire Night to share. It's a sure-fire way to win new friends :)

I found several bushes bursting with fruit along a cycle path next to the railway. If you've not seen sloe bushes before, you'll soon learn to spot them.
Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn bush - small, bluey-black fruit, with a stone at the centre and so sour they will turn your mouth inside out. And protected by spiky branches. Why bother? But add sugar and gin,leave for several months in a dark place and they obligingly transform themselves into one of my favourite liqueurs.
There are a hundred different recipes out there. Hugh Fearlessly Eatsitall is usually pretty reliable if you like a proper recipe. Here's what I do.
a) Wash the sloes to remove any pollution/bugs etc
b) Freeze them to save all that pricking faffle. Or prick each sloe individually to allow the juice to seep out....Use defrosted sloes to make gin, not while still frozen.
c) Use 1lb of sloes per 8 oz of sugar and litre of gin.
d) Bung them all together into kilner jars. It is easier to fill them, shake them and remove the sloes later, rather than trying to force sloes through neck of a gin bottle (voice of bitter experience...)
e) Put in a cupboard but shake the jars daily for a couple of weeks to dissolve the sugar.
f) Leave for as long as you can resist. I make mine in the Autumn to share the following Autumn or Christmas. Three months is the minimum time I would recommend.
g) After six months, you need to get rid of the sloes and filter the gin into clean, sterised bottles. Use the old gin bottles (or any decorative small bottles if it intended for gifts).A funnel and clean old tights will do the trick for filtering. Having said that, this year I used kitchen towel and it worked fine.

h) Enjoy. And Share.....preferably with me, especially if you've some nice cheese going spare...

i) The used sloes can apparently be reused with vodka and sugar for a similar 'slodka' but ready to drink in a couple of weeks. I have yet to try this.
Other people have reportedly put the sloes out to for the birds - but I can't help thinking that's a bit cruel.....