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This year I decided to have a good old go at making sloe gin - originally meant to be presents for friends that are fans of the stuff - however after going picking with the mother in law locally she came back from visiting her daughter with bags of them for us to use up...
Having looked around the recipe I followed was a connotation of the BBC food recipe (they were all fairly similar to be honest, and this one worked for me).
450g/1lb sloes - with pricked skins
225g/8oz caster sugar
1 litre/1¾ pint gin
Basically the process involves bunging the ingredients, into a sterilized container, and shaking them daily at first, then weekly, and then when you remember, until you either drink it, or decant it into bottles to store it in (you should leave it at least 8 weeks, although it can be left for longer if forgotten). We personally used demi johns, but big jars, or bottles will do (do make sure that the berries will for through the top before you start). (Pop into Wilkinsons or the like, to get something to facilitate the sterilization process, and just follow the instructions, even I managed this. So it won't be taxing).
Generally the rule of thumb states that you should wait for the first frost, as this will make the berries sweeter. Although when we planned to do this, the first lot of sloes that we went to pick were gone (my boyfriends choice of patch) - to birds or other foragers who knows? At this point we went to the next patch the MIL knew of. Personally we went mad, and just picked the lot. I do recommend going with pots, and a bag to carry them in, also not taking the most hyperactive dog in existence would probably help too.
After a bit of research it does become clear that you can freeze the berries, which will serve the double purpose of sweetening them, as well as bursting the skins. Well apparently - we did this, and with the first batch we then proceeded to smoosh the berries as we popped them in the jar... With the second as I was in a hurry I didn't bother with the smooshing, and I feel it made a less flavorful gin. (We chose to squish the berries as the thought of pricking them all with a pin with frozen fingers just sounded like a dangerous idea).
The two batches of gin have gone down really well - I'm not usually a fan, but obviously had to try before doling them out, as I didn't want to poison anyone. It's bloody lovely! My fella drinks it straight, and I like it over ice, and with bit of tonic. It was a lovely day out, and something that will definitely be a Christmas tradition. We strained out the berries through a jelly bag, however you could use a funnel, and piece of muslin. There are many things that can be done with boozy sloes after they have made sloe gin, the most appealing to my boyfriend is flapjacks - however this year we just didn't have time - but we will give them a go next time.
Highly recommended as a good day out in the fresh air, followed by an interesting tipple for Christmas festivities. I did however go with people who knew what they were doing, so do make sure you know what you are looking for, although I am informed that it's very hard to mistake sloes for anything else...
We have laid a few bottles down, as it apparently ages well, so we'll revisit at the time of the village show this summer to see if the flavour has got even better!
It's a bit late in the season now to start making your own sloe gin, but for those who haven't given it a go, it's good fun to brew your own lethal and very special gin, using readily available and in some cases free ingredients.
A quick trawl of the internet will reveal a number of recipes for home made sloe gin and this year, I have made my second batch. Last year's batch was drinkable, but I know what I didn't get quite right, so this year was a chance to redeem myself and produce a slightly more refined and palatable spirit.
There's something rather satisfying about home brewing, although it's odd that the brewer always seem to find the resultant brew rather more palatable than those members of his family and friends who are persuaded/feel pressured to try some. Memories of Tom Good's Peapod Burgundy in The Good Life!
I won't reproduce a recipe in full within this review. However, the base ingredients are sloes (the fruit of the blackthorn tree), sugar, lots of it, and gin - a lesser brand is fine for sloe gin as the process will render it unrecognisable and very different in terms of taste and drinking experience than any rough old cheap gin, typically available at a park bench near you.
The most important bit is the timely gathering and treatment of the sloe fruit. These are the blue round plump berries that grow on the blackthorn bush/tree and it is around November when these are usually ready for harvesting. The optimum time for harvesting will depend on the weather conditions earlier in the season and the part of the country in which you live.
You will notice the berries from about August in the roadside hedgerows and you should keep your eye on them and according to most experts, you should wait and watch them grow fat and plump. After the first frost of the year, they are normally ready for harvesting. A stepladder is handy to have. Wear strong gloves to avoid some nasty pricks, but some may get out there and steal your harvest (!), so look in a couple of areas rather than rely on a crop that many may have seen and subsequently filch.
Many will have suffered 'a stolen crop' with blackberry picking earlier in the year, so act fast.
Once you have got as many as you think you will need, take them home and wash them and to help release the flavour and juices, they all need to be pricked. This can be a little laborious, not to say tedious, so it's a good idea to get some help at this stage. For Goodness Sake, please don't be attempted to taste them - they taste absolutely foul.
I did say I wasn't going to reproduce a recipe - there are plenty available elsewhere, but basically, the rest of the process involves sugar and gin, regular attention and the passage of time, but the eventual outcome is worth waiting for and the final bottled product is a lovely sweet, syrupy and very strong gin, very different from ordinary gin, but hugely enjoyable, the more so when you have been responsible for its creation.
A good quality sloe gin in the shops will set you back over £20. This year I have made 6 bottles, which is more than I can reasonably manage over a few months, so we will give away a couple of bottles if it ends up being drinkable. If it isn't very good, we'll give away more! Last year, I think I picked the fruit a little early. This year it was plumper and juicier. So if I leave it another month before I open it, I am confident of a much better outcome.
Sloe Gin is a drink to sip and savour. It isn't for knocking back quickly. I have seen one or two get rather badly drunk on this stuff, so please treat it with respect if you want to avoid that horrible spirits headache.
Sloe gin, what can I say. I was practically weaned onto this at my parent's farm. So so so easy to make and so so much fun watching someone eat a raw sloe if they've never done it before.
Last autumn, the weather meant that Sloes weren't in the abundance they normally are, so I picked some for my dad then I was stuck as to what to put in my Gin! Well, there were plenty of Blackberries so i picked a load of them, slung them in a bottle with some sugar (not as much as for Sloe gin) and left them for four months...... delicious. I will definitely make this again. I think I'll also try raspberries as well this year.
A word of caution, wash the fruit well as I got a little, well preserved worm in one glass!!!
To summarise the recipe:
One empty Bottle
One (full) bottle of Gin (can be supermarket own brand or whatever)
Enough fruit to fill one bottle (Choose one of: Sloes, blackberries, loganberries, gooseberries etc etc etc)
Share the gin and fruit out amongst the bottles, put in about 150g sugar. Leave this mixture for about four weeks, then add about 100g more sugar and leave for another four weeks.
If it doesn't taste fruity enough after this, or there is no colour to the gin, add more sugar (about 50-100g) and leave again. The end result you are looking for is a syrupy drink that doesn't really taste alcoholic.
Clearly the tasting is crucial!
It has been somewhat of a family tradition to make a Sloe Gin ready in time for Christmas but it wasn't until this year that I finally plucked up courage to try it. I am particularly funny with what I drink and usually stick to my whiskies. However the glasses were so small and the threat that it would "knock my head off" was too much temptation. I was so glad I tried it because it was wonderful and I am looking forward to making my own ready for next Christmas (not to share!).
Gin to me usually tastes fairly dry and not a refreshing or very fragrant drink however when the magic of the Sloe berry is introduced the gin takes on a whole new dimension. The slow berries are indeed very fruity and have quiet a distinctive flavour which I have not tasted anywhere else before. Of course it did "blow my head off" because you have to remember you are actually drinking pure gin just with added flavour.
Making Sloe Gin is very simple and somewhat rewarding when you have such a sweet and tasty drink at the end. All you need is some Sloe berries, luckily these grow wild near our house. They are picked after the first frost comes, which usually about the end of October time. You then need to prick the berries with a fork (careful the juice stains) and add them in a litre bottle to ½ a litre of gin. With both the ½ litre of gin and the Sloe berries, you then need to add 150grams of sugar (caster is best). Your done.....
Well of course there is the small matter of shaking the bottle everyday till around Christmas time which is about the time the gin will be ready for sieving and drinking. We did find last years bottle in the back of the drinks cupboard this year and although it had a few more little bits floating in it, it did taste much better so of course it does still improve with age.
We did get a coffee filter however and drain the gin through to remove all traces of Sloe berry debris and this worked a treat.
This really is a nice thing to have for Christmas and my brother and his wife even bought posh bottles so that they could give them away as presents to people!
The taste is beautiful, the look of the gin is a wonderful pink/red colour and this can really be rewarding to make and drink your own creation. 5 star rating and a VERY HIGH RECOMENDATION!
Thanks for reading.
Gin is Gin right ? WRONG !!
Recently I was introduced by a friend to Gordon's sloe gin, something I have never come across though brings to mind the Flavoured Absolut vodkas which are also really nice. It's the same kind of thing but Gin.
I gave it a try (nope it didn't take much persuasion I like my spirits) and well - it's a really GREAT drink.
The bottle is same as your regular screw top Gordon's Gin bottle but clear not green, the gin itself is a pretty deep-purple-red berry colour though still a clear spirit, not cloudy..
There is a faint pleasant smell of fruitiness along with the normal 'gin' smell, yes I always smell drinks before drinking.....still gin taste but there's also the definite fruity flavour of berries, it's sweet with a nice aftertaste...a bit moreish All this yummy tastiness is down to the sloe berries.
We prefer it simple - with a quality lemonade straight from the fridge, it looks a vimto kind of colour, still very deep-purple-red (though I guess depends how strong you like your drink) It's so very drinkable and refreshing...rather like a mild alcopop. Evil drink when mixed with lemonade very one moreish !
Though also nice to sip as a slow drink neat (or nearly-neat with ice.) take it steady though this stuff a bit to nice!
Traditionally a winter drink apparently, though our house it has been voted all year rounder !!
Also can be used in cocktails I've been informed ?! Though I like to keep it simple.
Alcohol content is 27% So not terribly high
You can find the wonderful Gordon's Sloe Gin at most big supermarkets it is a little bit more expensive than normal gin but it is also a bit more special 70CL will set you back £13.49.
If you have tried the flavoured Absolut Vodka stuff then this will probably go down well too. Yummy drink, just go slow and steady !
Thanks for reading.
(review can be found on ciao, by me under same user name)
I am a big Gin and Tonic fan. Slim-line with ice and masses of fresh lime. Just divine....and Gordons is definitely my favourite brand. Recently I also discovered that Gordons do a sloe gin, something I previously didn't even know existed. I gave it a try and quite enjoyed it and today it makes a pleasant change from my usual tipple when I fancy something a little different!
According to the BBC website Sloe Gin was originally devised to disguise the defects of poor, tainted distillations back in the olden days. These days it is considered a traditional winter warmer and is particularly associated with Christmas time.
Sloe gin is flavoured with blackthorn berries which are a relative of the plum. This is opposed to dry gin which is flavoured with juniper berries which are white berries. Sloe Gin is apparently not a "real" gin as it is aged on wood-barrels.
In stark contrast to the perfect clearness of dry gin Sloe Gin has an attractive deep ruby red/purple colour, although you can still see through it. The intense colour makes this an interesting and attractive looking beverage and the colour is not diminished by the addition of a mixer which is great.
The bottle is just the same as the Gordon's Dry Gin bottle, rectangular but with clear glass instead of green. There is a screw top lid, initially sealed, which is easy to open and close.
The liquid inside doesn't smell of much, but I can detect a whiff of sweet fruit yet with a slight alcoholic tinge.
Upon taste there is a tinge of the flavour of dry gin but with a subtly fruity flavour of berries. It is sweeter than ordinary gin and leaves a substantial but pleasant fruity after taste in the mouth. It is also quite dry to the taste, possibly a little more so than regular gin which I personally think is a little more refreshing than sloe gin in comparrison.
The alcohol content is 27% which is a considerable amount lower than regular Grodon's Gin which is 37.5% alcohol by volume. Consequently the drink will typically be served in 25ml measures.
****Alcohol should be consumed sensibly and not in excess. The purchase and consumption of alcohol is illegal to those under the age of 18****
Gordon's Sloe Gin is priced at £13.49 for 70CL from a leading competitive supermarket, which is the slightly more expansive than Gordon's dry Gin prices at £11.18 for the same size bottle. In bars you can expect to pay around £2.50 for a 25ml measure and a mixture.
Personally I think that Sloe Gin is best served simply with tonic, soda or lemonade and ice only. Skip the fruit in this instance. But if you want something a little more adventurous then I have included some Sloe Gin cocktail recipes below and there are loads more online for interested parties.
SLOE GIN FIZZ
1 oz sloe gin
1 oz gin
3/4 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz sugar syrup
3 - 4 oz soda water
2 oz vodka
2 oz Southern Comfort
2 oz sloe gin
2 oz Grand Marnier
SAN FRANCISCO COCKTAIL
3/4 oz sweet vermouth
3/4 oz dry vermouth
3/4 oz sloe gin
1 dash orange bitters
1 dash bitters
Seemingly it is very easy to make sloe gin at home using dry gin, sugar and ripe sloe berries. If you are interested in reading more in this respect then check out http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/sloegin_7722.shtml
In summary this is a lovely alternative to gin but it doens't beat the real thing which is why I have only given the product four stars. If you are a gin fan definitely give it a try. If you aren't a gin fan then you should still try it. I have a friend who can't stand dry gin but she will happily knock this back so don't disregard it immediately. Give it a try, you might like it!!