With the wet weather drawing in, I have felt somewhat marooned in my waterlogged farmhouse, however, with the fire finally lit, and my baby boy desperate to explore, we pulled on our mud-clagged boots, and went stomping over the recently ploughed fields to source the elusive sloe tree that we had stumbled upon on our weekend jaunt.
I have a passion for sloe and damson gin, and not wanting to miss out on creating my own to keep me warm for my first winter at Hillpike, I decided that despite not actually knowing if this was definitely a sloe tree, my desire for the deep-red heady syrup overrided this small problem and I (and hopefully you if you are a friend of mine and due a homemade Christmas present) will have to keep all fingers crossed that my instinct was right and that I (and you) won’t be poisoned – only time will tell.
I also LOVE Nigel Slater and so I have followed his recipe.
You will need 450g of sloes ( I had one smallish boy in one hand and a large colander in the other, plus it was raining and I was walking through a bog so I only managed 420g.)
You will also need 350g of caster or granulated sugar.
1 litre of gin – whatever you can get your hands on – cheap as chips is fine I have been told.
Some sterilised bottles ( to this I might add that a chef friend has told me any large necked container – even a tub with a lid – will work perfectly well as long as it’s sterilised).
So firstly you should prick the sloes with a needle (some say a silver one) I’m not sure what mine was made of but I did pour boiling water on it first. I had an idyllic vision of me sat by the roaring fire dozily spiking the purple stained fruit with the pin – in reality I got a bit bored and stabbed myself several times, and actually got a bit cross.
So, divide the pricked fruit into the bottles (or tub), followed by the sugar, followed by the gin. Next gently shake or stir to dissolve the sugar, put on the lids and put in a cool and dark place, such as the pantry, stirring or gently rotating every so often, for at least 2 months.
When it has turned into a lovely, thick ruby slick, decant it through muslin into your sterilised bottles, and await serious applause.