Search the Site
Create a Site
Read the News
Whats On

Sloe Gin

By the pricking of my sloesÖ..

You will need: 1 litre gin per batch. 1kg of sloes. Caster sugar (see notes for quantity)

Iíve made sloe gin most years since moving back to the countryside in 2003, but Iím not sure I have mastered it as yet. Perhaps regard this as a shortcut along the way to perfecting your own batch to your own taste, so more signpost than recipe.

Around Swerford sloes are abundant. This is particularly true if you live in The Griffin as we have plenty in the back garden. For the rest of you the Wigginton road has a good supply, but the footpath from Cradle Farm over to the Swan in Wigginton has a huge crop this Autumn. If you can time your harvest to a weekend lunchtime, Lynne does keep a decent pint.

For each 1 litre bottle of gin, you will need about 1kg of sloes (I was never taught imperial weights and measures at school, sorry). Pick carefully, the thorns are sharp, and pick after the frost if you can as this helps with flavour. No issues this year, but in warmer autumns I have had to revert to the freezer.

Wash your sloes, towel dry in a clean tea cloth. Place in a bowl and then decide on how best to prepare them Ė your objective is the break the skin on each sloe. Some prick each one individually with a needle, but I tend do go in with a fork frenzy (think Janet Leigh in the shower) until I think Iíve hit each one. For good measure I then bash them some more with the end of a rolling pin.

Slide the sloes into a wide neck Kilner jar or similar (available at Gills) and pour the gin over the top. Then you need to add caster sugar and again itís decision time.

I started with a 500g recipe, but found that a bit sweet, although my aging Mother does ask for seconds. 100g of sugar makes for a tart aperitif, 250g is better and more drinkable, but I now settle on around 300-350g and drink later in the evening. I recommend experimentation.

With the sugar added, seal the Kilner and give it a good shake. Store in cooler cupboard. Shake every day for a fortnight, then once a week for 12-15 weeks. You should see it develop into a deep red liquid and note all the sugar dissolved from the bottom of the jar.

After the shaking period distil to clean bottles (you can use the original gin bottle of course, but also smaller decorative bottle if you are going to make presents). I sieve mine with some muslin cloth to remove the finer debris, although youíll always have a few mm left at the bottom of each bottle.

This last stage is critical and not easy. Leave it for a year before drinking. At least a year. It settles further in the bottle and the result is clear, sweet (to your taste) and delicious.

A couple of final points. The berries will be infused with gin/sugar after the bottling process Ė I did wonder if they would go well with dark chocolate, but admit Iíve not explored this much until this season. Ask me again at Easter. Second, that nice Nigel Slater says you can use sloe gin to enhance sauces and gravy, particularly for game dishes. As a vegetarian these last 20 odd years, I cannot confirm this, but thought Iíd mention it all the sameÖ

Ian Heath The Griffin House

Graphic version of this page