SLOE GIN – a waste of good Gin or not?

I haven’t made Sloe Gin for some years (always thought it was a waste of a good drink in the first place) and what with the current craze for Gin across the UK, I thought never the less it was time I made some for Christmas/New Year.

The first thing was I found the best Sloe bushes (Black Thorn Tree actually) I have ever seen right on my doorstep? Well, across the farmers field on a walk I do regularly, but never saw the bushes until the other day. They were the best looking, plumpest berries I’ve ever seen!

Secondly, I was in a quandary as to which Gin I should use.

Finally, I thought I’d better check to see what the professionals do to make it so I looked up on the Internet for some guidance to refresh my memory.

Well that was an exercise worth doing as it seems there are some very different ideas; so, to cut to the chase I’ve summarised what I found out and then it’s down to you to decide.

  1. They used to say wait until there has been a frost and the first frost is normally in October. But actually, this was an indicator of time and not to do with the frost as its when the berries are ripe. This October has been the hottest on record; we’ve had no frost this month in Kent and yet the berries I found were the best, ripest and most fleshy I’ve ever seen. There’s no point spending money on good Gin it they are either too small, too young or too old.
  2. They (the berries) need to be in the Gin for at least 2 months but too long and the berries disintegrate and the liquor can taste bitter.
  3. Wash them well and don’t dry them. Put them in the freezer for at least 24hrs. This is to allow them to split to save you pricking them. However, they don’t all split so prick them as well after they are de-frosted and use a thorn from the bush (a large one). Hold a handful at a time and prick away turning them around in your hand; believe me this makes a difference.
  4. Use a jar that will hold at least 70cl of Gin and put the berries in approximately up to half the jar (whatever size you use it must have enough berries in it).
  5. Turn the jar once a day, daily for four weeks, keep in a cool, dry place out of sunlight.
  6. The GIN question? The higher the ABV (alcohol content) the better. That means more expense. Everyone says don’t buy cheap Gin. That’s where I start to begrudge this whole idea. I love Gin after all. I leave that question to you the maker. Bottle of sloe Gin.jpg
  7. The SUGAR question? The professionals say don’t add sugar until you are ready to drink it and dissolve castor sugar in some of the Sloe Gin first then add to taste and then bottle it. The Gin needs to get into the berry and adding sugar thickens the liquor and the effect is not the same apparently; viscosity and all that.
  8. When the gin is ready and before the point of adding the sugar, pour it through a fine mesh sieve and then a muslin cloth (as it needs to be clear).

Remember there’s nothing to stop you picking more than you need as they will last in the freezer and you can make more for next year a bit early, say September, knowing it’s going to be perfect for Christmas the following year.

Some recipes have a drop or two of Almond essence added. I can’t say I have ever heard or tried this or whether it makes a difference.

And drink away either neat or with tonic; as of writing there are still some berries on the bushes/trees, but you will need to hurry as the hedge cutters are out and time is ticking to have it drinkable for Christmas. Or just buy a bottle pre made (there’s more available on the shelves than ever before due to the Gin craze)and save yourself the hassle. It’s all down to you.....