Back in my boarding school days, around the time of A-level examinations, myself and a few friends would meet for “Gin club” every Tuesday. Often held in one of our rooms, although we were all on the same floor at the top of the house (perfect positioning to avoid getting busted by our house master). Gin club consisted of sitting around in armchairs, having a good chinwag and a few G&T’s before bed after a hard evenings revision.
That was when I began to savour the delights of Gin as a long drink…on its own I found it, and still do, absolutely revolting.
But what of Sloe Gin? My history with Sloes or blackthorn, go back a long way. My father, like most parents, was a firm believer in child labour. It was good for us as it kept us out of trouble and good for him, as he merely had to dictate and direct proceedings. I never understood at the time why my brother and I were sent into the fields with buckets and told to collect sloes, which to me looked more like black olives. We never ate them, so I always wondered what happened to these mysterious dark berries, all became clear one Christmas when a bottle of purple liquid appeared at the table and my brother and I were allowed have a wee dram…for our efforts.
Sloe gin is something you should be laying down RIGHT NOW! It is simple to make and even easier to enjoy (although there is a period of incubation). Sloes ripen with the first frost, if they are not ripe yet (you can tell if they are as the skin loses its white hue and they tend to split), they can be placed in the freezer overnight to imitate a heavy frost.
There are no strict rules on how to make sloe gin, some people like to add more sugar or add a few interesting spices. The way I see it, people have been making this for almost as long as gin has been around, there can be no better mentor than good old Mrs B: If in doubt always check with Mrs Beeton!
A word on Gin selection: don’t bother ruining a perfectly good bottle of Tanqueray or Bombay Sapphire, go for a nice supermarket own brand or if you want to be a little more flash, a bottle of Juniper Green organic gin. Gordon’s do make their own sloe gin, but there really is no substitute for homemade.
For this recipe I adapted it to suit the size of the bottle I had, an old Weston’s Cider demi-john.
800g Sloes (half a demi-johnful).
2x 70cl bottles of gin.
200g of Caster Sugar.
1x 2 litre demi-john.
Now for the easy bit, half fill the demi-john (or your choice of bottle) with ripe sloes, I must hasten to add a bottle with a larger opening makes this a lot less tedious! Add the sugar and fill to the top with gin.
Store in a cool, dark place for 1 month, giving it a gentle shake every few days. If you are an eager beaver like me and want to have it ready for Christmas, strain the sloe gin through muslin after a month and rebottle into 2 separate bottles. This way you can enjoy one and keep the other to mature.
Don’t waste the gin soaked berries, why not try adding them to a Rumtopf or a bottle of vodka or sherry…atomic!
You probably have a few weeks to get at the sloes, so if your not busy this weekend, you know what you should be doing…
Ps. The Germans call sloe gin “Schlehenfeuer”, good name!
PPS. Oh, and round of applause for Bertha, who is doing a sterling job of keeping me warm at the moment!