When the first frosts of November arrive, we all start digging out the warm clothing and Winter gloves. Around this time, my mind also turns to toward the bountiful Blackthorn bush. It has been a prodigious Autumnal harvest for most fruit and nuts this year and Sloes have been no exception; they seem to be everywhere you look.
Blackthorn provides us with two chief pleasures; in Spring, it is one of the first trees to blossom, smothering the hedgerows with its pretty white bloom. It flowers along with its close relative, the plum and proclaims the seasonal change. Then, as Winter approaches, we benefit from its late fruit, Sloes.
Tradition has it that the Sloes should be picked after the first frost. I normally wear cycling gloves, to save my fingers from the prickly thorns and purple stains, as much as the chilly air. The most popular pastime with this fruit is to make Sloe Gin, a tasty, plummy nip for those cold Winter nights.
I picked so many juicy beauties that I had enough to make a bonus gallon of Sloe wine, but Sloe Gin is always the blue/black jewel in November’s crown. This seasonal drink can make a delicious Christmas gift; in a small, decorative bottle. Alternatively a small glass can be the perfect companion to a platter of cheese and biscuits, maybe accompanied by tangy home-made chutney and a few slices of apple…
Someone turn the TV on and ring for the butler!