Sloe Season

Picking sloes on the south coast of Guernsey.

We love a cheeky tipple of sloe gin by a roaring fire in the cooler months. Whether by itself, with bubbly, put in to a cocktail, or even drizzled over vanilla icecream.

And, in our opinion, there is no finer way to spend an autumn Sunday afternoon than picking these little berries. However, time is running out, so this weekend grab a container, stick your wellies on, gather friends and family (after all many hands make light work) and get picking.

Once you harvest your crop, wash the sloes, removing any leaves, bugs and stalks. Forget pricking, instead pop the berries into a freezer bag and freeze for a week, the ice will crack the skins without losing any of the good stuff.  If you have the equipment or time, you could dehydrate your sloes before infusing, removing the water in the fruit that might otherwise dilute your gin!

After freezing, bash with a rolling pin just to loosen up the sloes. Half fill a clean, empty jar or bottle with sloes and top up with gin - you could use any old gin but why punish yourself after all that hard work picking sloes!  Treat yourself to a really special batch and use the Wheadon's Mandarin Lime and Hibiscus Gin. 

Place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark and now the waiting game begins.. Leave for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle occasionally, giving it a shake every week. 

Once sufficiently infused strain the liquid into a large jug through a cheese cloth to filter out the fruit, stones and skin.  Where many recipes call for you to add sugar at the start, we advise adding it at the end in the form of simple syrup (equal quantities of sugar and water, heated to form a syrup and then left to cool) - that way you can adjust the sweetness depending on how sweet or tart your sloes were.  Sweeten to taste (which will involve some poor soul frequently tasting - perhaps draw straws?) and then pour into bottles (kilner bottles are great) ready to be enjoyed over the winter months.

Top Tip: Wear an old leather jacket or Barbour to pick your sloes in - blackthorns are seriously sharp!

Written by:

Mat Hailer