Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn bush. Thorn indeed, the branches are covered in incredibly sharp and vicious ones. When we've finished picking our arms look like we've been self-harming.
So why do we do this? Sloe gin of course! (and sometimes vodka). Firstly the berries should be individually pricked with a needle or a fork, but as this is incredibly tedious, we just pop them into the freezer for a day or so, then when you defrost them they 'break down' a little bit all by themselves and they're then in a perfect state to release their flavour and their fantastic colour. Then, you just add gin and sugar, shake the contents up every so often and three months later (coincides nicely with Christmas ha ha!) you strain the gin through some muslin and there you are. We usually make enough to give some away as gifts.
However, this is not all we make from these blue/black little devils. Combined with some cooking apples and sugar they make a fantastic jelly.
You just simmer equal quantities of sloes and bramley apples with some water until they're really soft. You then need to separate the clear juice from the fruit pulp.
So, to do this, first sterilise an elephant's condom..........
Only joking, it's a jelly bag!! It fits over a metal frame/stand thingy (which tends to collapse while you're trying to stretch it over). When it's finally in place, you just dollop in the fruity mixture and leave it to drip into the bowl below. One important thing to remember is NOT to squeeze your bag (ooh matron) as this makes the jelly go cloudy.