This scrumptious hedgerow recipe makes
a liqueur like drink, which if made in the autumn, will
be ready for Christmas, although it keeps for ages. However
once you start a bottle, you'll want to finish it! It's
great served as a liqueur, plain, over ice or even drizzled
over good quality plain ice cream as a dessert.
Sloes are the fruits of the blackthorn, Prunus spinosa,
a prickly bush or small tree which is commonly found
in the hedges around the village, particularly along
the cross-field footpaths. 2004 looks like a bumper
cropping year! The fruits are a deep purplish-blue
colour, about the size of a large blackcurrant, with
a cloudy bloom on the surface. While they look very
attractive, sloes are almost unbearably bitter to taste.
Beware the bush, it lives up to its' Latin name, and
is very prickly!
Having picked the sloes put them in a bowl and cover
with cold water. This will help you wash them and separate
any picked leaves or creepy-crawlies! Drain them through
a colander, and de-stalk the berries. Most will of
come off the branch without a stalk. Now for the boring
bit! Each berry needs to be pricked a number of times,
some recipes say 12 times! I use a needle, but the
traditional way is to use a thorn from the berry bush
itself. Several recipes I've come across, suggest packing
the berries in 1lb bags and freezing them, so the berries
burst. I haven't tried this, as other sources suggest
crushing the berries may lead to a cloudy finished
For the ingredients, you'll need white sugar, the
sloes and some ordinary gin. Use a supermarket own
brand, there's no need to use an expensive branded
gin. The proportions are approximately:
1 lb sloes (500g)
1 pint gin (500ml)
1/2 lb white sugar (250g-350g)
Work out the proportions for each bottle you're going
to fill. Put the pricked sloes in the bottles first.
Stir the sugar into the gin; it takes quite a lot of
stirring to get it to dissolve. Fill the bottles up
with the gin/sugar syrup, cap and seal. Store in a
cool dark place, and turn/shake gently once a week.
Some sources suggest green bottles are preferable to
clear, so the best ruby colour is retained, but I haven't
had a problem with either type.
Using a 1 litre bottle of gin, 1kg of sloes and 500g
of sugar, you will need 2 x 1 litre bottles.
Near Christmas, decant the liqueur into another bottle,
filtering it through something like muslin, to get
the clearest end product. Enjoy!