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How to Make Sloe Gin

Find out how to make your own sloe gin

How To Make Sloe Gin

recipes | foraging | fruit

Sloe gin is a delicious winter drink which can be made at home from just three ingredients - sloe berries, sugar, and of course gin.

Ripe sloe berries on a Blackthorn - sloe gin recipe

Sloe berries grow on the blackthorn bush (lat. prunus spinosa). These are typically found in hedgerows, at the edge of fields, beside footpaths, in public parks, and even on patches of urban wasteland. The sloe berries reach their full size by the start of September, but should ideally be picked as late as possible so that they are as ripe as possible.

The best time to pick sloe berries is the day before the first frost of the year, but you have to balance the risk of someone else picking them first or being caught out by an early frost with getting the ripest fruit possible. If the first frost is late, pick by November.

If the berries are left on the bush when it is frosty they will split which will make them spoil rapidly and also makes it difficult to pick them. Blackthorn bushes are (as the name indicates) full of thorns which can make sloe berry picking a painful and dangerous pastime. However, they are well worth the effort.

Eaten straight from the bush sloe berries taste very unpleasant as they are full of astringent tannin. Picked very very late they can sweeten up to almost edible levels some years, but are still only for the brave.

Freezing sloe berries for making sloe gin

If you manage to pick enough sloe berries to make sloe gin immediately then great - you need around 500g of ripe berries per litre of gin to be added. If not, you will need to freeze your berries until you have built up sufficient stocks. Clean and dry the berries getting rid of any leaves and stalks, spread them out on a baking tray, and put in the freezer. When they are frozen pour the batch of berries into a sealable bag and store in the freezer.

As stated earlier, sloe berries will split when defrosted after freezing which has a benefit - if they have not been frozen, each berry will need to be pricked with a fork a few times so that their juice can get out. If you have frozen your sloe berries, then defrost them. Pour the (defrosted) berries into a kilner jar, and add 200-250g of sugar per 500g of sloe berries and then pour over 1 litre of gin per 500g of sloe berries. Close the lid securely and give the mixture a good shake.

Kilner jar with sugar, sloe berries, and gin to make sloe gin

Store the jar in a cool dark place giving it a shake every day until all the sugar has dissolved and then leave it be for a few months. Then the final step is to strain the mixture through a muslin cloth to remove skins, stones, and other bits and pieces which need to be discarded and now pour your sloe gin into bottles.

Sloe gin flask

Thanks to its high alcohol content sloe gin will keep for many years in a cupboard - in fact its flavour will mature over time particular over the first six months getting rid of the taste of strong alcohol. For a smoother tasting sloe drink, vodka can be used instead of gin to make sloe vodka.

Shopping List

Here are some useful links to relevant products:
kilner jar
sloe gin bottle
muslin cloth

Article Published: 14:40, 13th Apr 2012

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