It's autumn time in Britain and when the first frost descends it means only one thing...it's time to pick sloes! Due to an unseasonably wet summer this year on our fair isle, there is an abundance of berries to be found in most woodland areas, country parks and hedgerows. Parks in suburban areas tend to be pilfered first, so I prefer to go picking out in the country, where other foraging hands are less likely to get there first! Sloe gin takes a minimum of two months to mature, so make it now, just in time to enjoy as a Christmas tipple.
Preparation Time: 30-60 minutes (not including picking) total but 24hours will be needed as berries must be frozen in advance.
Cooking Time: N/A
Makes: 1.5 bottles of gin (1 x 75l bottle and 1 x 35cl bottle)
Ingredients 1 punnet of freshly picked sloe berries (the minimum you will need is enough to fill half of one bottle)
1 75l bottle of decent gin
3 tbsps caster sugar
Pick a punnet of fresh sloe berries from a hedgerow, country park or woodland (or alternatively buy from a farm shop, supermarket or even the internet). Sloe berries are round and dark in colour with a dusky hue and look almost like large blueberries. They are ready when they can be pulled easily from the thorny bush.
Place in a strainer / sieve and rinse.
Place in a carrier bag and put in the freezer overnight (NB freezing the berries mimics the real first frost in nature and should split the skins, meaning you don't have to prick them skins yourself, which can become tedious). Alternatively you can skip the freezing step and prick the berries all over before adding to the bottle. This allows the sweet berry juice to seep out and gently flavour the gin, as well as stain it a deep scarlet over time.
Sterilise the empty bottle/bottles that you are going to be filling with your home made gin, with very hot soapy water and rinse out thoroughly.
The next day, fill up half of the 75l empty bottle with sloe berries from the freezer. By now the skins should have mostly split - if not, you can make a few holes with your fingers / toothpick as you put them in.
Add 2 tbsp of caster sugar per 75l bottle.
Top up the bottle with gin.
Place out of direct sunlight in a cupboard on it's side.
Turn each bottle 180 degrees each day to rotate.
Leave for a minimum of 2 months and watch as your bottle turns into an attractive scarlet colour.
Open and enjoy, or give as a Christmas gift to friends or family.