The best accompaniment for Sloes is gin!!

You may have been wondering (if you were bored for a few seconds) what happened to all that lovely foraged fruit that I collected the other week. Well, its all been put to very good use. You may remember we collected damsons, elderberries, blackberries and sloes.

Well, I’ve been harping on about the damsons ad infinitum and you are probably heartily sick of hearing about the damson fool we  lived off for three weeks (not the same one, I just made it rather a lot). Believe it or not I still had damsons leftover which I’ve been slowly ploughing through. Those not frowzen for the winter months  (when we most need an edible reminder of summer and a bit of extra Vitamin C) were mixed with vodka and left to steep.

Freezer full of Damsons and Blackberries

Freezer full of Damsons and Blackberries

As for the Sloe’s, in my opinion there IS only one thing you can do with them…. it has to be Sloe gin, dark, syrupy sweet, goes down like fruit juice and satisfyingly lethal! I have to admit my sister and I got through a whole bottle on Boxing Day last Christmas (not a whole litre bottle Ok, although i’m sure we could have done that with ease; it was the size of a half bottle so not that bad). We had a very happy day, but as we nursed our hangovers the next morning we stared sorrowfully (through our dark glasses) at the empty bottle and wished we’d saved some for the rest of the festive period, it was just too good not to drink. Oh well, we learn’t our lesson, make double next time!!! Sloe gin for Christmas: 2lb (900g) fruit to 2 pints (1.2litres) spirits (it doesn’t have to be the best gin, as the fruit will flavour it beautifully) to 1lb (450g) sugar….or thereabouts.

I’m none too careful with my measuring when it comes to Sloe gin. I prick any firm fruit with a needle or try and crush them a little then feed into a clean demi-john or very large preserving jar and top up with gin. Either cork the top with a tight fitting bung, screw on a lid and give it a bit of a shake so the sugar, fruit and gin is mixed. Leave in a cool dark place for as many months as you can before the urge to start drinking it takes over. If you make it now it will definately be ready in time for Christmas. Every week or so give it a turn and a little shake as the sugar will settle on the bottom. When its ready strain the gin into clean bottles and cork. The recipe tells me that the flavour gets better with keeping, but I’ve never been able to keep mine for more than a few weeks. I really must try and develop some willpower. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the same luck with my Elderberry syrup. Once the fruit was prepared and in the pan cooking I noticed an odd, slightly nausea inducing aroma. It took me a while but I finally worked out, that it reminded me of that Henna powder I used to get from the local ‘Head’ shop when I was a hippy teenager. With sugar added it was no better, I tried to taste it a few times to see if I could convince myself that I liked it, but alas I feel the experiment failed. I haven’t wasted it though, its bottled in the fridge and due to be recycled in an apple and elderberry chutney…surely the addition of chilli, onion etc will stop it smelling like hippy hair dye!The evil, nausea inducing, Elderberries

Demijohn with Sloe's, sugar and half topped up with gin