Sloes in Bristol

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I don’t have any pictures to help you identify them but do try this site here. As always, know what you are doing before you pick anything in the big wide world, there are some not so nice berries out there too.  Watch out for the berries of the deadly nightshade which can be confused with sloes. Make sure you take an identification book with you if you are unsure at all. Some years there are lots of sloes, some years not so many, keep looking and one day you will find them. What to do with the tart, mouth puckering little berries?

Sloe gin or sloe vodka I guess. You need at least 500 grams of sloes, prick them or freeze them to soften the skins. Add approximately the same weight of sugar, fill your container with alchohol. Shake once a day for a week. When you think it is ready 8 – 10 weeks later, after a little judicious tasting, strain the berries out.

Pam Corbin says you can use the gin sozzled berries in a pie at this point, and you could probably use them to make chocolates I reckon, Anyway at this point you  bottle the liqueur – what a lovely word that is, sounds a bit like liquorice – and LEAVE for 18 months. Allison made some beautiful hedgerow liqueurs – there I’ve said it again ! – which she brought to the Dales Dough Do so I hope that if she reads this post she will add if there are any finer points I have missed out!

I bet there are some stunning cocktails to be made.

I have made a little sloe gin and some damson vodka too as we found some beautiful damsons at Birches Farm Shop, Cambridge Batch which unlike many other ‘farm shops’ really has home grown vegetables for sale. . Going to see steam trains has its uses, you find places you didn’t know before!

If you make sloe gin do tell me how you like to drink it best!

17 thoughts on “Sloes in Bristol

  1. kuchenlatein

    Isn’t it too early for sloes? We hadn’t any temperatures below freezing point yet, picking sloes after the first frost.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Good Morning Ulrike! Traditionally it is customary to wait till the frosts, you are right! However, if one waits till the end of the month, then there are rarely any left on the blackthorn bushes at least in the green areas local to the cities here. So that’s why PC suggests putting them in the freezer for a day or so. If they are soft and ripe then it is better to pick them now and do that to simulate the frost.

  2. Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial

    I’ve never seen or heard of sloes, don’t think they grow here. They look like blueberries! I love your idea of dipping the macerated sloes in chocolate! We made plum liqueur earlier in the year and it was lovely…

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Celia, I’ve never typed the word liqueur before, I thought it looked odd, and then I saw your comment… sorted now :) The smallest bitterest members of the prunus family you can imagine, that’s a sloe! But sugar and alcohol do wonderful things to them.

  3. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

    I’ve only made this a couple of times before Brydie. I know very little about alcohol making proper :) The line is always that it is ‘medicinal’ like ginger wine and so on…

  4. heidiannie

    I’ve heard of “sloe- eyed” women. Is that a reference to the color or shape of your sloes, Joanna?
    I once made Elderberry wine that was so sweet I called it a cordial. It was my one attempt to make wine- I don’t drink much alchohol because of I have diabetes- and I decided that it doesn’t make sense to make it if I’m not going to drink it.
    Thanks for sharing this, I’ve done a little research and learned some things.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Heidi, I think maybe both, dark blue/black colour, glossy shiny, maybe curved shape – I think the colour mostly but I am not sure. Like the phrase ‘her lips were like cherries’, multiple characteristic associations? What do you reckon?
      I don’t drink much either, gives me headaches and keeps me awake at night! This will be pretty sweet stuff too I guess. I read someone who suggested adding another bottle of alchohol to what you produce in order to have a drink that was less sweet. I think the sweetness maybe encourages you to drink it in small quantities, or mixed with something else, like fizzy water? There is a huge tradition of making wines and cordials from foraged fruits and vegetables here. I have never made wine or beer, only tried this a couple of times.

      I made something my book calls ‘Pontack sauce’ last year, with elderberries – I haven’t opened the bottle yet. It said to leave it for ages. It’s a savoury sauce for adding into stews and marinades. Maybe I should go and dig it out.

  5. nic @ nipitinthebud

    my sloe gin from last year is still steeping. I reckon it needs a good poke with a knitting needle as contrary to lots of reading before making it the frozen berries didn’t burst their skins. After a year it’s still more pink than purple. Sadly being a sloe-gin-making virgin last year it’s in a thin necked bottle so goodness knows how I’ll ever get them out!

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      I’ve been reading about this a bit more since I posted this Nic :) It might be also to do with how ripe they were when you picked them? There are people who reckon you should prick each sloe 12 times with a needle, some add a silver needle! A thin skewer or knitting needle – sounds like it’s worth a shot. Or maybe go and get some new ones and pour what you made last year over those? I used a Le Parfait jar to do them, your thin necked bottle reminds me of some very trendy garden pots I bought, with a bulbous shape, the opening being smaller than the rounded base. I planted them up and then two/three years later when I wanted to repot the shrubs in them of course I couldn’t get them out! Now I put plants in a plastic pot and sit the pot in the fancy one, then at least I can move them in and out :)

  6. chocveg

    Hi Zeb, thanks for the compliments about my sloe gin and damson gin from last year. I’ve now got a little store, so can afford not to drink it all each year! I take the bowl of sloes, and prick them all over with a long pin, (just do it while watching TV or chatting to people, who think you are rude and ignoring them!) and it usually takes a few weeks for all the sugar to dissolve, but maybe my house is cool, and I might not do it every day!! I have got a good lot of sloes this year, and am going to try using a bit less sugar, say 750g to 1k of sloes, and see if the same amount of beautiful alcohol results! Am also trying some with one batch that is in the freezer as I did not have time to make it when I picked them, but will still prick them to let the juices out.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Chocveg – Do you think if I go and hunt out some more, and then prick those and add them into the two little jars I have made that would give them more oomph? After only a week of shaking my little jars each day, they are going a nice dark pink now and I had a little sip and it’s happening already. The damson vodka on the other hand, Brian’s idea, tastes really rough. But then I am not a vodka fan at all!

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