Some say there is no better use for sloes than in a Sloe Gin. Christmas would never be the same without a bottle (or using Vodka depending on your tipple), but Sloe Gin is also a lovely liqueur to drink at any time.
Ideally, sloes should be picked after the first frosts, but when they are ripe and ready to pick depends on where you live so expect to be out foraging from late August through till October—fortunately this still gives enough time for soaking ready for Christmas.
Sloes are found on the Blackthorn bush. In full fruit, there is no prettier sight on an autumn morning and the sloes look not unlike a bunch of grapes. However, unlike biting into a ripe, juicy grape will delight, eating a sloe will be a serious disappointment. The fruit is hard and the taste bitter and grainy.
- 425 g sloes
- 475 ml gin (or vodka)
- 225 g/8 ounces sugar
Gather the ingredients.
Rinse the sloes under cold running water to remove any dust or small insects and grubs.
Each sloe needs to be pricked or slightly opened to allow the fruit and alcohol to infuse. Either prick each sloe—which is hugely time-consuming—or place the sloes in the freezer overnight and the skin will split all by itself.
Weigh the sloes, then measure a pint (475 ml) of gin (or vodka) and 8 ounces (225 g) sugar per 425 g of fruit. More sugar can be added later if the resulting liqueur is not to your liking.
Mix the sugar with your chosen alcohol and stir to help the sugar dissolve.
Place the pricked sloes in large jars or wide-necked bottles, loosely fill, do not overcrowd the jars.
Cover the sloes with the alcohol-sugar mixture, close the jars or bottles with a lid, and store in a cool dark place.
Shake the bottle every couple of days until the liqueur is ready which can take up to 2 months, but the longer the better. So, start the brewing in the autumn you will have liqueur for Christmas.
Strain and reserve the sloes, taste the liqueur and add sugar to taste. Return the liqueur to clean bottles, seal, and drink when you want.
What to Do With Leftover Sloes
Do not through the sloes away, they have absorbed lots of sugar and the alcohol so a shame to waste them.
- Leftover sloes are delicious dipped in melted chocolate and served as an after-dinner treat.
- Add a few soaked sloes to a game stew for added flavour, they really make a difference.
- Cook the steeped sloes with a little more sugar and serve as an alternative to Cranberry Sauce or add the sloes to a Christmas Relish