Foraging is something that can be taken to extremes but I'm a fairly lazy forager. I'm the sort of mum that will pack some empty tupperware on an autumn walk in case we spot black berries, but I'm not usually keen enough to bring the car to a halt on an A road and climb on the car roof to pick apples growing among the trees on the verge (ok I did that once). Sloes are a very British thing to flavour gin with though and while I don't actually make my own gin (there are limits!) it is nice to have something you have (almost) made free. I buy the cheapest gin the supermarket has to offer. And then I pick my sloes.
Don't try this unless you are sure of what you are picking. A sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn, they have white flowers in the spring (spot them then and make a note where to return to!)The small tree or large bush will usually be growing in a mixed hedgerow, there are thorns on a blackthorn (the clue is in the name!) so take care. The fruits are small, about the size of a small olive, and black but with a blue 'bloom' to them which will wipe off with a damp finger. If you bite into one the flesh is greenish purple and will strip the moisture from your mouth! They are very bitter!
Copyright: heikerau / 123RF Stock PhotoTake the sloes home and wash them, remove any bugs, weevils etc, find some empty glass bottles (it's tough but you may have to drink the contents to empty them) or mason style jars. I then prick over every sloe with a pin (yes really) to help the juices flow.
Half fill a bottle with sloes, cover them with sugar, fill the bottle with gin. Close the bottle and pop it into a dark cupboard. Give it a shake every week but otherwise ignore it for at least 6 months, the pips of the sloe, in common with peaches, damsons and other 'stone' fruits, contain cyanide and while I have never had an issue, even after steeping them for years, it's advisable to take them out after 6 months for this reason*. You can add more sugar if the original sugar dissolves in the first week.
When it has achieved a dark red colour (it will, you will even see the red leaking out of the holes you made in the sloes at the start) and all the sugar is dissolved, you should carefully strain it into a glass bottle for storage and serving.
Drink responsibly! Sloe gin is great on it's own, with tonic or as a base for cocktails.
Have you been up to no good this week? Foraging, cooking or eating outside? Have a great camping recipe to share? Now's your chance! Please link up your blog post below.
*All stoned fruit contain minute amounts of hydrogen cyanide and after lengthy submerssion in gin this cyanide begins to leach into the drink imparting the bitter almond flavour. However this generally happens only after a long period of time and the good news is that this type of cyanide is not in anyway harmful. However in an attempt to mimic these effects some people started adding almond essence to their sloe gin to copy the flavour of their friends who had left their Sloe gin under the stairs for longer than expected. ref Foxdenton Sloe Gin