Sloe Sunday

Yesterday was a pretty unremarkable Sunday.
The weather wasn’t doing much of anything and the hedgerows were calling.
We pulled on boots ’n’ Barbours and marched out for a spot of foraging.

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Hedges all over Britain are heaving with goodness, and we wanted to grab our fair share before it all goes to the blackbirds.
The hit list?
Sloes for gin, blackberries for crumble.
If you’ve never made sloe gin, make this the year you do! It’s easier than you might think, and we’re being treated to an early, bumper season this year.
First though, you’ve got to collect them!

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The two adoptees! Hector (from Greece) and Socks from Bosnia (I believe) via these guys.

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Blackberries are probably the easiest and most widely foraged of all countryside fare.

They’re absolutely everywhere and it’s very difficult to go wrong when stealing blackberries. The bigger, blacker, and plumper, the better.

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Occasionally a few even make it into the baskets!

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But it’s hard to resist sharing with handsome devils like these around…

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Sloes on the other hand are significantly less delicious, when fresh from the bush.

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They grow on blackthorn bushes and look like blueberries, but aren’t as squidgy to the touch.

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You can pick pretty safely as they don’t really have any poisonous cousins.

Just watch out for the thorns!

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We brought along the fruits of last year’s labour to keep us going.

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Which probably didn’t do much to help picker productivity…

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We took our sweet time, and plucked from the hedges, chatting and laughing as we went.

Conversations punctuated by the occasional bellow and swear, from whoever had just caught their thumb on a prickle.

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Poor Harry! If only he weren’t so sloe, he might have gotten away!

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Thankfully he took it berry well.

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After hours and hours we still hadn’t filled the buckets of blackberries.

No-one could figure out why.

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It remains a mystery.

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We all polished off the last of our hip flasks.

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Grabbed a few final berries.

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And called it a day.

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Now, for the important bit!

How to turn your sloes into Sloe Gin.

You’ll need:

2kg of sloes

2litres of gin (nothing fancy, get the cheap stuff)

1kg of sugar (most people use double this, but I prefer a tart liquor. If you have a sweet tooth, double it.)

Ziploc bags

Funnel

Sealable bottle

Start by pouring your sloes into ziploc bags.

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Try not to make quite as much mess as we did!

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Don’t over fill them, you want the sloes to lay flat.

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Freeze until frozen, or overnight.

Remove from the freezer and thaw before the next stage.

(Here’s some we froze earlier.)

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Once they’re nicely defrosted, pour into your (sterilised) bottle.

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Add your sugar.

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Pour in your gin.

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Seal it up!

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Turn a couple of times, to mix it all up.

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Watch as the berries swirl and dance in sloemotion!

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Put it away somewhere dark & safe, away from any strong smells.

Turn the bottle every other day for a week, then once a week for 2 months (just in time for Christmas!) or, up to a year if you can wait.

When it’s ready, line a sieve with a piece of muslin or cloth and strain the gin through it. Pour the beautifully pink gin into little labeled bottles and put away. They’ll only get better in time, so you could even save some for next next Christmas.

When you’re ready to serve, you can pour it into little port glasses or serve in tumblers over ice.

Mum keeps hers in a decanter and is always ready to fill a hip-flask at the slightest provocation!

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If you’re wondering what happened to the rest of the blackberries?

They found a good home in my Blackberry & Toffee Apple Crumble, served with rivers of fresh custard.

Leading to an evening of fireside, horizontal recovery, with books in hand and snoring dogs warming our feet.

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