Now there are many drinks that are associated with Christmas but when all the hullaballoo of bright colours and bubbles have been and gone and you are sitting there just wanting to enjoy a quite moment then you just cannot beat Sloe Gin because… it is Christmas in a bottle. We “foraged” some Sloes last year and now, at long last, we got to enjoy the harvest as Christmas.
There we were having a lovely wander around RSPB’s Otmoor Reserve just outside Oxford the September before last (so 2020) and we kept spotting these black small marbled sized berries on a lot of bushes. Huh?
They must be Sloes – huzzah! – we danced with joy… every pocket was filled and hats from kind strangers were offered to help carry this most unexpected of harvests back to the car and then home to make wonderful Sloe Gin as we listened to Christmas Carols and enjoyed the warmth from a roaring fire!
How it really went down is like this – “What are these?”… “Not sure, don’t touch.”… “Am not touching (OK I touched)”… “Might be Sloes?”… “Sloes, they are…?”… “Berries, very tart but you can use them to make some kind of flavoured gin”… “Quick, gimme your hat and keep a look out…”… Later, back at HQ… “What do we do with them now?”… “You picked them, your problem”.
Ah, I am just enjoying the memory. It was really a bit of both and no hats were involved as for some reason we had some plastic bags with us. Anyway, a couple of small bags were filled and we returned to HQ to work out what on earth you (I) do with them.
Fortunately it is really really simply – there are just 4 basic ingredients to Sloe gin and they are:
- Sloes – of course!
- Gin – of course!
- Sugar – those Sloes are a bit tart so the sugar balances things out
- Time – ah… oh… dear
OK let’s deal with these ingredients one at a time…
The Sloes… now most recipes will advise you to, after washing, prick each and every single berry with some suitable implement to break the skin. Mrs B says, nah too much hassle. Just stick them in the freezer overnight, take them out and then carry on. Breaking the skin is key to getting the flavour out and freezing is a simple and easy way to deal with that task. When the time comes, don’t bother defrosting either, just tip them in the jar, bottle etc.
The Gin… Don’t bother with any fancy brands, go for the supermarket own cheap brand. You are looking to add flavour not to compete with other flavours so the supermarket own brand is the way to go.
Sugar… about half the weight of your Sloes is needed but read the recipe.
Time… ha ha… this is the one thing you can’t buy with home made anything. With Sloe Gin the longer you wait the better it gets but the more you wait the more impatient you get so… make a number of bottles, some for enjoyment sooner and some to be savoured next year (well worth the wait).
So we used the BBC Good Food Recipe – as ever the deciding factor was how many ingredients and how many steps and this one won hands down.
We followed the recipe (except for preparing the Sloes) and apart from that wouldn’t change a thing.
- Sloe Gin Recipe (BBC Good Food)
Sloe Gin really is, for me, Christmas in a bottle. It is so simple but so perfect and should you be thinking of heading out for a walk in the autumn then the moral of this story is, before you set out, pack plenty of hats and plastic bags… just in case you come across a lovely crop of Sloes waiting to be turned into what is the simplest but most sophisticated of gins.