Last year, we made sloe gin and sloe vodka for the first time. We went collecting one sunday with some of our neighbours. If there was such a thing as competitive berry picking, we were all going for gold. The weather all summer had been so bad, so the trees were virtually bare. The berries, we did find were small and shrivelled. Of course we weren’t letting that put us off. Limbs were scratched, children pushed in the mud, and miles covered in the quest for enough accessible ripe berries to fill our containers. We managed to scrape together enough for our family to make one batch of sloe gin. The other families, not first timers like us did a little better.
This year however is a different story. The summer has been sun filled and the branches are literally groaning with fruit. As well as that, we have discovered 3-4 bushes only minutes from our back door. It is fair to say: This years sloe gin production is upping its game. We are also adding sloe vodka to our production schedule.
For both vodka and gin the recipe is pretty much the same:
450g (1lb) sloe berries
225g (8oz) caster sugar
1 litre gin or vodka.
Obviously first you need to source your berries. These are great foraging food, but if you haven’t access to a country side supply, they are available to buy on line.
They look almost identical to a blueberry. But don’t be fooled. They are incredibly sharp, even when very ripe. The first thing to do is remove all the stalks and leaves, washing them thoroughly.It helps to have small people on hand to do this, and the next task – which is pricking all the berries, as both are boring. I love a slave child labour, and as the berries are so tart, there’s little danger of losing all your bounty to nibbling little fingers. Obviously you don’t have to arrange the berries in a grid, unless like me you are addicted to instagram.
Berries prepared, you can add the sugar, booze and berries to sterilized sealable bottles. Wide mouthed mason and storage jars work well as you dont need to squeeze berries down the neck of the bottle. But any sealable clean container will be fine.
The containers need to be shaken periodically over the next 2-3 days until the sugar has all dissolved.
Dont forget to name and date your booze. Store in a dark room for a minimum of 2 months – but ideally 3. If you can, its worth giving the containers a shake once a week if you can remember. Once the waiting time is up, strain through a muslin, and put into sterilised containers. Once bottled, store for another month if you can wait that long. The sweetness of the liquor will be very dependent upon the level of sugar in the berries you used. Adjust the sugar level with sugar syrup if needed. Add a nice label to the bottle, and these make great gifts. If you can bear to give it away.
How to enjoy it:
The sloe gin and sloe vodka can be drunk neat as a liquer after dinner (or whenever you want – far be it for me to tell you when to have a drink). Or it can be added to tonic water for a refreshing pre dinner drink.
Add equal quantities of sloe gin or sloe vodka to good quality tonic water, with plenty of ice.
Either are delicious. I am looking forward to experimenting with other recipes when this batch is ready.
I am a sucker for pretty packaging. I am also a huge hoarder of things I can reuse. These soda bottles are perfect for 330ml bottles of sloe gin and sloe vodka. But I refuse to comment on whether the soda was bought specifically for the bottle!
Remove the labels, wash thoroughly. Add some hand drawn labels.