a Guide from The Potted Pig
Ruby in colour and ripe cherries on the nose, with warm blackberries and heavy rose on the palate –finishing with rich lychee, leaving you with a lingering balance of sweet and dry. Sloe gin really is a tipple to tantalise your senses.
As autumn is upon us, now is the time to get your sloes in tow ready for Christmas! Picking your own sloes has become one of the UK’s best kept secrets – the proprietors of the purple berries will never reveal their sought-after stash however should you be able to locate a wild blackthorn tree, you’ll find it throbbing with fruit at this time of year. Nevertheless, there’s another plentiful source from which you can purchase your berries – online!
So whether you’ve foraged for your berries first hand or they appear in the post, before plunging into the maceration process you must ensure your sloes are ripe. How can you tell? Simply squeeze. If the berries are hard, they’re not quite ready – ripe berries should bruise between your fingers. Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to wait until the first frost to pick your sloes – instead simulate the first frost at home by freezing the berries overnight.
With your sloe berries ripe and ready, follow this simple method to that first sip of the season:
- Freeze your ripened sloe berries overnight. This process ruptures the skin so there’s no need to prick the berries, as many recipes suggest
- Sterilise your airtight bottles (assuming you’ll be making more than just the one bottle for Christmas)
- Fill the bottles with the frozen fruit up to half way
- Top up the remainder of the bottles with good quality gin
It’s important here to comment on what gin to use. Sloe berries can highlight a gin’s quality, rather than mask it so it’s worth splashing out on a special bottle for the festive season. We asked the gin buffs at The Potted Pig what they’d recommend. From their extensive list of 36 gins they suggested Sipsmith’s London Dry, “an award winning small batch gin, produced in London’s only copper still. It’s bold, complex and aromatic with a warming spice” – perfect for Christmas!
- Add one crushed almond per bottle – this highlights the rich marzipan characteristics to the stoned fruits
- Seal your bottles and leave until Christmas. Make haste as sloe gin needs at least three months and with Christmas fast approaching, you’ve really no time to waste!
Once your gin is ready (and not a moment before) taste test your festive treat. If you feel it needs a little extra sweetness combine equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Warm the mixture until the sugar dissolves then allow to cool – and there you have your own sugar syrup! Then simply add to taste.
And there you have it, your very own sloe gin – the perfect way to top off your festive feast!
An article by Bryony Fenton of The Potted Pig