Autumn is here so it’s time to pick (or buy) your sloes and make your sloe gin. Two months is the minimum amount of time it needs to mature, and as it’s now two months until Christmas…
First up, you need to find your sloes. Around this time in the UK the wild blackthorn trees are aching with fruit. There’s lots of debate about when to pick them, but the simplest rule is that if you can pop the berries easily between your finger and thumb, they’re ripe.
Pick enough to half-fill the bottle of your choice, but if you have loads it’s a really good idea to make a batch of them. The longer you leave your gin the better, so anything you don’t drink this year will be fantastic the next year, and even better the year after that.
Start by sticking them in the freezer overnight. This will simulate the first frost and split the skin on your berries, allowing them to release their natural sweetness.
After sterilising your airtight bottle(s), half fill it with the frozen fruit and top up with gin – a good gin please, as cheap ones make cheap sloe gin and will often ruin all of your hard work. Add two big spoonfuls of caster sugar and shake for a minute. Lay on its side out of direct sunlight and twist it 180 degrees every other day for two months.
A few days before your first glass, give it a taste. If you think you need it sweeter then make a simple sugar syrup. Do this by dissolving equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan over a low heat. Let it cool then add to taste.
Serve on a crisp winter’s day lunchtime as an aperitif.