All the seasons are either too early or too late this year. Anyway, since we in UK have had one of the wettest summers on record this has been reflected in the plants around us. Everything is very lush but often you can find trees starting to turn their leaves as if it were autumn.
Usually in mid September there is a plant called wild blackthorn upon which grows a bitter fruit which is only between 10 and 15mm (1/4 to 1/2 inch) and actually a wild type of plum. The flavour of the fruit, which has a stone, is bitter to us poor mortals, so the small plums are not suitable for eating. Birds love them - feed on them and then drop the stones. However, the effect of frost makes the fruit milder. The bitter flavor is lost when making liqueurs. I understand that the plant is related to the hawthorn, crab apple and the like.
Anyway, coming to the important part! Have you ever made sloe gin? If you haven't ever tasted it, you are sadly lacking in your education!
Last Friday, we went for a picnic in the grounds of a National Trust property called Standen where there are beautiful gardens. To the side is an area of woodland where you will find wooden benches for picnics. This is where we sat to admire the view.
Once we had finished eating and drinking we wandered back to the carpark but on the way stumbled upon some wild bushes on which sloes were growing. Normally at this time of year you would expect to see the blossom but because of the weather the fruit had already formed.
Luckily I had an old icecream container with us so we started to pick the fruit. After collecting around a pound in weight we went home ready to begin the preparation to make our very own sloe gin..... aaaaaaaaaaah forgot, we only have Vodka but it is just as good!
1 lb. (450 g) sloes
3 cups (710 ml) gin or vodka
1 1/2 cup (350 g) sugar
Wash and dry the fruit, remove all stems, and freeze the sloes for at least a couple of days (not necessary if they are picked after the first frost). Place the fruit in a suitable container, add gin or vodka, and shake twice a week for 4-8 weeks. Transfer most of the liquid to a bottle. Add the sugar to the remaining sloes. Shake twice a day until all sugar has dissolved; this may take up to two weeks. Mix this sweet syrup with the first unsweetened liquid. After three months strain the liqueur thru a muslin cloth. Add some more sugar if necessary. The liqueur should mellow for 6 months before used - I don't think so!!!!! Making it now, it will be ready to consume at Christmas and make super presents in presentation bottles. Yes, I know you should leave it to mature - but it is sooooooooooooooooooooo good!
As an alternative you can mix the sloes, gin/vodka and sugar at the same time, but then use slightly less sugar. If preparing the sloe gin/liqueur this way you will also get a delicious flavor, however, the total volume of liqueur will be less because more liquid will remain within the fruit.
Sloe gin is traditionally made in Ireland and Britain. Sloe liqueur is also made in Scandinavia, Germany, France and Spain. This delicious liqueur has a flavor similar to plum liqueur and the color is dark red. It is best served in small amounts as an after-dinner drink with or without ice.
What you can do with the left over fruit is dip it in luxury chocolate to make fruit truffles.... mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm!
8 months ago