Sunday, 18 October 2009

A Sloe afternoon

Every year around about the end of September Mr AC and I go sloe picking. You have to wait until the fruit has a 'bloom' on it - which means that the little black berries take on a sort of opaque bluishness. NEVER eat one. They're so sour they'll draw your bum up to your elbows (as my Father-in-law used to so eloquently say).

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.
When all of the juice has dripped through, you just add sugar (1 pint of juice to 1½ lbs of sugar) and boil it in the same way that you would when making jam. The crimson coloured juice then turns a much darker, almost black coloured jelly.

The flavour it develops is not unlike a full bodied, tannin rich red wine. It keeps its fruity flavour, but it leaves a lovely dryness in your mouth and I think it is perfect with white meats. In fact we always have it with our Christmas turkey and pork.
Last weekend though we ate it with some chicken breasts that I stuffed with black pudding and wrapped in bacon. The combination of flavours worked really well.


  1. Sloe gin marvellous and the jelly looks delish. When shall I come round to collect mine??
    I haven't been sloe picking am I too late??

  2. I love the way you say so casually, "...that I stuffed with black pudding and wrapped in bacon." How skilled! for me that alone would probably be an afternoon's work and accompanied by much bad language. LOVE the sloe gin. Will be so satisfying to savour that at Christmas, when your self harming scars have healed.
    country mouse xx

  3. oh very cool post love the condom he he

  4. Oooh how I loooove sloe gin! I wish we had some sloes nearby.

  5. Jan - your blog and your seasonal, local cooking ideas are so inspirational - everytime I read your latest post I'm thinking "Why the hell don't I do that?"...Fantastic stuff. The nudge-nudge, wink-wink 'carry on cooking' writing style also cracks me up.

    *cough* Sloe Gin or Jam *cough* as well as *cough* Tomato Chilli relish? *cough*

  6. Linda - Yes, probably too late I'm afraid. I'll bring you a hipflask of my sloe gin on the 12th :)

    rockinloubylou - Many thanks for the kind comments. Yes I do see sloe gin as purely medicinal ;0

    Chow and Chatter - Thanks for stopping by!

    Lizzie - Do you live near any woods? You're bound to find some in there next year.

    Dan - What a lovely comment, thank you very much. I'm sure I've got some spares. I know they will be going to a good home ;)

  7. I'm impatiently waiting for mine to mature as well but was a bit worried as I skipped the pin step in favour of freezing. Now I'm reassured to see that you've gone for that shortcut too!

  8. I have never made jelly, but am encouraged now after seeing all of those dark purple jars of deliciousness.

  9. I love Sloe Gin, mine never makes it to Christmas!! and I never have enough to give away!!! xxx

  10. Hi there. Just want to let you know, i've nominated you for a blogging award for making lemonade when life gives you lemons. I know the lemonade you'd make would be absolutely delicious!
    country mouse

  11. One day I'll go for a walk, in the forests of ...maybe france...I'll find sloes. I'll recognise them, and then come home to jam and gin!