It's that time of year when I feel I should be out in the hedgerows, gathering all the free food Mother Nature has to offer.
Not this year. But, we did crack open a bottle of 4 year old sloe gin the other day and it was rather potent and very warming!
So I thought I would share my recipe with you, no point in buying that expensive shop bought stuff, when you can make great sloe gin at home for a fraction of the price.
You will need some cheap gin, I use Aldi gin, tastes great anyway but is cheap, bottles or glass jars to brew your gin in, and sugar, lots.
Collect your sloes, they are the fruit of the blackthorn, a plum related bushy tree which grows to a height of around 25 feet. Beware, blackthorns have huge thorns and can grow suckers, which means they can be thick and bushy around the base, you will invariably get caught up in the thorns as you scramble for the fruit!
Sloes are about the size of your thumbnail, they are bitter to the taste and have a large stone in the centre, they also have a white bloom.
Don't bother picking wrinkled ones, and watch out for infested ones too, some insects like to burrow into ripe sloes. Most old recipes state that you wait until first frost before picking your sloes, no, just pick your sloes and put them on the freezer overnight after washing. This also makes the next stage, pricking them, easier.
I use a long needle to prick sloes, a bodkin. I hold each one up between finger and thumb and skewer straight through twice, then pop into the chosen container. Mine are these old Tip tree bottles.
Fill your chosen container two thirds full with sloes. Pour over lots of granulated white sugar and tap gently so the sugar gets into all the crevices. Pour enough sugar in to just cover the sloes. Then fill your bottles with cheap gin!
Now comes the hard bit, put those containers in a dark place and shake occasionally for a couple of months, decant the liquid off into another container, preferably a bottle this time, and enjoy!
Some folk use the gin soaked sloes and cover them in chocolate, I'm afraid I just squeeze them and throw them out.
As an aside, here's Joe Bonamassa singing about the very stuff!