If you have a bumper crop of sloes, consider storing them in the freezer for future sloe gin-making session
Photo: Patricia Pitsch/Maison Moderne
Delano shares its top recipes for festive digestives. Today's recipe: Sloe gin.
Sloe gin is a taste of home for me. I grew up in a rural Sussex village where, during the local pheasant hunts, the “guns” and “beaters” would carry it around in hip flasks, taking a slug to ward off the English winter chill.
My brother told me how, as a beater, he was too young to drink sloe gin and so, to fit in with the hunters, he would fill his hip flask with neat blackcurrant cordial, similar in colour to sloe gin.
My dad would make his own sloe gin in giant, empty whisky bottles filled with good quality Gordon’s gin and then stuffed with sloes which, over a period of months, would turn the liquid the colour of strong tea. The locations of blackthorn bushes, on which sloes grow in October-November, were a well-kept secret in the village. I knew of only one.
So, when, while out walking a few years ago in our Luxembourg village, I stumbled across a countryside path flanked by several blackthorn bushes studded with hard black bullet-like berries, I rushed home for a bowl. I since learned that Luxembourgers call them “Schleiwen”. In the past, I’ve had some good crops, picking along the country lanes close to the village of Schleiwenhaff in the south of Luxembourg.
Traditionally, you’re not supposed to pick sloes until after the first frost. I get around this by collecting the berries and freezing them in 1-kilo quantities. It also means you can prepare your gin all year round. Like the village hunters, I enjoy sloe gin neat although I give away most of the sloe gin I make.
Ingredients for 750 ml of sloe gin
500g ripe sloes
250g golden caster sugar
1 litre of good-quality gin
1 pinch of ground almonds
1 large mason jar
1 muslin cloth
Time: 20-30 minutes
How to make it
1. Clean your sloes before freezing. If using non-frozen sloes, prick their skins.
2. Place them into a dry, sterilised mason jar with capacity for more than 1 litre.
3. Pour over the sugar, ground almonds and gin and seal shut.
4. Shake well once a day every day for the following week and then store the jar in a cool, dark place for up to three months.
5. When ready, strain the mixture through a muslin cloth and bottle it.
This article was originally published in the Winter 2020 edition of Delano Magazine.