The gardener for whom the Blackthorn is not a suckering, venomous plant to be spurned at all costs, has a little secret: the fruit of the thorny plant – the Sloe. And beyond jellies and jams, the most likely reason he hails this suckering plant’s arrival with joy is that he has a certain penchant for a nip of Sloe Gin. In these grey days, a timely interval – The Bottling of the Sloe Gin.
4 pt Gin
2lb 10 oz Sloes
10 oz Sugar
Prick sloes all over with pin or similar to encourage exchange of juices.
Layer in demijohn with rest of ingredients.
After three months strain through muslin and bottle.
Age for as long as possible in bottles to soften off that raw edge
(The method of freezing instead of pricking – a favoured time saver – does seem to produce a slight jelly-like bloom in the gin.)
Pick Sloes, a bulging black fruit much like a small damson, in early October or after first frost, you’ll find them growing on the hardy, thorny, dark-wooded Blackthorn, but mind yourself – a scratch from a thorn quickly turns septic.