Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
The Progress of the Sloe Gin
Sloe gin, from bush to bottle.
It’s still not too late to gather the sloes from the Blackthorn bushes. They have had a couple of frosts so are perfect for making the perfect Sloe gin. Remember the longer you leave it to mature the better it will taste.
The abundance of sloes this year tempted us into an early flurry of sloe gin making and so it is time to take stock of progress. In order to gladden the heart let’s take a look back at the Spring blossom.
The flowers come out before the leaves, they herald the arrival of Spring and can put in an appearance before March. They come in a glorious cloud of delicate white. Each flower has five petals with long white filaments holding the pollen aloft. The flowers are a very early and therefore important source of nectar and pollen for the pollinators. The leaf, when it puts in an appearance, is a dark and rather inconspicuous thing which is why the bush rather fades into the hedgerow until the fruits appear.
Picking the Sloes.
When the fruits first appear they have a waxy bloom on them so you leave your fingerprints on them as you go. Pick about 450g for a 70cl bottle of gin. Warning, mind out for those thorns they are long and sharp. We pick in early Autumn taking care to leave plenty for the birds. Do not be tempted to pop them into your mouth, they are stunningly dry and sour. Even talking about them is making my mouth water.
Once gathered the fruits need to either be pricked all over or popped into the freezer to allow the skins to split. We prefer to prick with a pin just because it is part of the fun of making the sloe gin.
Building the Sloe Gin.
This could not be easier. You need two containers, 350g of sugar and a bottle of gin. Split the berries, the sugar and the gin between the two clean containers.
Seal and give it all a jolly good shake.
Then comes the difficult bit. Put it away and only touch it to give it another good shake. The longer you leave it the more of the flavour is released from the berries. When you can stand no longer bear to wait, then it is time to pour and enjoy.
So where are we in the progress of the Sloe Gin? Well it has had another shake today, the colours are good. Therefore we predict that by Christmas it will be ready to pour.