Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Sloe TV

It is that time of year again, when we start to think about gathering Sloes. In Celtic folklore, the Blackthorn occupies a dark and possibly even sinister area concerning Samhain (the precursor to Halloween), and facing your own mortality. Certainly, once the leaves come off the trees, they can have a somewhat foreboding skeletal look about them.
You can make many interesting things out of the wood of the Blackthorn tree but the most popular use for the Sloe Berry is deliciously plummy Sloe GinYou should get your Sloe Gin started by mid November, if you want to have it ready in time for Xmas. It can make a very welcome gift, especially if you store it in decorative bottles. Lore states that you should ideally wait until the first frost, before you pick them (alternatively, sling them in the freezer). After this these highly astringent fruits apparently ripen and taste sweeter.
Obviously, the name of the Blackthorn contains a barely veiled warning, it can be a prickly business, but picking these bloomy blue/black babies brings its own reward. To make Sloe Gin, simply immerse your Sloes in Gin, add some sugar, to help bring out the juice. Leave the mixture to steep for at least a month giving the jar a regular shake (every day for the first week, then every week for the following month or so). Some people recommend piercing the sloes with a thorn first but my experimentation has shown this to be unnecessary. 
I picked mine during lunch-time walks and ferried them home each day in my sandwich box. I already knew where the bushes were because I had spotted to Blackthorn blossom in the hedgerows in March. I filled a large Kilner-jar with berries and then topped it up with gin and a little sugar. I taste it regularly, just to check, then filter off the debris before decanting it into bottles. All that is then required are some decorative labels.
To get a bit more product from your efforts, another top tip, is to reuse the gin soaked sloes by pouring red wine over them, I'm using Elderberry Port from 2013). Leaving them to soak further, produces a fortified wine, ideal for the winter months. I like experimenting, and can't see any good reason for not giving this a go. I then intend to take this a stage further by using the resultant brew to make mulled wine!

Don't forget to put, the Urbane Forager book on your Christmas present list. 
Order your copy now!
You can buy this lovely book for your friends and family from all good book-stores or Amazon.
Author: Alan Gibson
ISBN: 978-1-78507-300-7

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