There was a time when sloe gin was not mainstream, when it was homemade and found only at fetes and fairs rather than on supermarket shelves. However over the past 5 years it’s become fairly common to see a sloe gin version of most popular brands in the shops, especially once the weather has started to turn cooler. While these products taste okay, they are not a patch on the deep fruity deliciousness that you get with the homemade versions.
When I lived in Britain I knew a place where you could go and pick sloes and used to enjoy making sloe gin in the winter. Unfortunately, despite much hunting, since moving out here I’ve been unable to locate any sloe trees (or Prunus spinosaif you’re posh). Last year I overcame this hurdle by bringing some sloes (kindly picked by my parents) back over with me after a trip home. While quite squashed and bashed these well-travelled sloes worked a treat and I had a delicious drink for Christmas.
This year I’m not heading home till Christmas – far too late to grab any sloes or make the sloe gin – and so I thought I’d test out some alternative fruit gins instead. After a bit of internet research is appears that you can make a fruit gin with pretty much any berry or stone fruit, the options are endless.
Inspired by the possibilities I set off to forage for some blackberries. This turned out to be least successful foraging trip ever. After about half an hour I finally managed to find some brambles, but the only blackberries on there were rather dried and shriveled. I appear to have missed blackberry season by quite a few weeks!
Undeterred I decided to pop down my local veg shop to try and get some there. There were no blackberries, but there were some lovely looking damsons from the Loire so I bought a load of them along with a Poire William to go with my elusive blackberries should I find any. After visiting three supermarkets I did eventually manage to locate some blackberries, and I also grabbed some raspberries for good measure (and gin) while I was at it.
And so, with this magnificent haul of fruit I set to work using these recipes. First into the bottles was the fruit. The damsons go in whole and needed to have their skins pricked first to allow them to infuse with the gin. The raspberries and blackberries just needed to be pushed into their respective bottles, but as they were pretty soft and the necks of the bottles were quite narrow this turned out to be a bit trickier (and messier) than I expected. Finally I sliced the pear into fairly thin slices and popped these in with the blackberries.
Next up was the sugar. Even with the funnel I managed to get this everywhere!
Finally I topped up the bottles, sealed them and gave everything a good shake to mix it all up.
Inevitably not all the sugar dissolved first time, so I gave the bottles a good old shake every couple of hours through-out the day and by the evening there was no visible sugar left and it was time to put the bottles in the cupboard where they will stay until December.
After all this my kitchen was in a bit of a state, but I can’t wait to see how these turn out and if they are a match for good old sloe gin!