I have not made sloe gin for a few years, so I thought it was about time that I did it again. I thought that it might be getting a bit late to find sloes, but a like minded friend told me that a visit to Old Winchester Hill in the South Downs would be a good place to find some. It is only about a 30 minute drive away from home, so laden with wellies and a couple of carrier bags, last weekend we set out in the car.
It was a proper autumnal day and the mist was resting in the valley below the hill. I was quite surprised by how quickly we found sloes and it wasn’t just a few; the first hawthorn bush we found was covered in them. After collecting a good haul we also came across some rosehips. Even though I have never used them before, I had tried a raspberry and rosehip vodka infusion recently, so thought I could do something with them and make our own Rosehip Vodka.
There are many recipes for making sloe gin. I personally think you have to follow a recipe the first time that you make it, and then tweak it the next time to your own personal taste. The first time I made sloe gin, the recipe I followed was far too sweet for my palate, so I have reduced the amount of sugar quite drastically, as I like to taste some of the tartness from the sloes. Another reason for adding less sugar is that I can always add a bit more in a few weeks time, if I think it needs it. As with all recipes you can always add more, but never take it away. Another thing that you may want to consider is the season when you pick the sloes, as it can make a difference to the quantity of sugar you may need to use. For example, if you were to pick them in September, you probably would need to add more sugar to your recipe, as the sloes would not have had much exposure to the sun and enough time to create their own natural sugars.
Hedgerow Infusion – Sloe Gin
- 450g / 1 lb sloes
- 110g / 4 oz sugar
- 500ml / 1.75 pints gin
You have two options with how you deal with the sloes, and I think it pretty much depends on the amount of time you have to spare. You can pierce each sloe individually with a sterilised needle or gently crush them using a potato masher. However, if you opt for the quicker crushing method, you will need to strain the gin through muslin before you bottle it, or it will be cloudy.
When you have pierced or crushed the sloes, place them into a sterilised kilner jar. Place the sugar on top and pour on the gin, seal the lid closed and let it infuse for 3 months. Even after a few days you will notice that the gin starts to turn a burgundy colour. You will need to agitate the contents of the jar every couple of days for the first month, and then about once a week after that.
After 3 months, strain through muslin cloth if it is cloudy and decant into sterilised bottles. Enjoy!