Sloe, sloe, hic, hic, sloe… By Kate Berry

Say sloe and most people will say gin but you can actually use whatever you like to top up your homemade tipples and, for that matter, you can use just as many different things for the base.

Experiment – the first time we made sloe gin, the recipe said to add a couple of cloves – Mr B said it tasted like cough mixture! No more cloves but I have heard of people adding chillies, juniper and other botanicals.   I tried making blackcurrant vodka a couple of years ago but it tasted like neat Ribena to me – too much on its own but lovely in a glass of fizz, or with lots of ice, and topped up with soda and mint leaves over the summer.

The basic recipe is the same for all of them – pick your base flavour (sloes, damsons, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, rose hips…) add sugar and alcohol (gin, vodka, brandy…).  Shake once a day for a week or so until the sugar has completely dissolved, then once a week for a month, and leave somewhere cool and dark until it’s time to strain into sterilised bottles.

The following quantities are based on a one litre kilner type jar so you may need to adjust if you are using wine bottles, etc.  It works for us but you may want to add more or less sugar – make sure you make a note of what you have done so you can do the same or change it next year.

400g fruit
200g sugar
500-600ml alcohol

Prep the fruit (see notes below), add everything to the sterilised jar and seal. Don’t forget to date and label as they often look similar when it’s time to decant them.My absolute favourite is blackberry brandy but I was given a wonderful clemicello (clementine vodka) which is very high up the list, and I tasted a homemade toffee vodka at our local last year – delicious.  I’ve also heard talk of Skittles vodka – maybe you’ve tried it or you have favourite recipes of your own? (Share the love in comments below).

Now where did I hide those Werthers…

Kate’s kitchen notes:

* Do take the time to strain the fruit through muslin, it’s worth the effort.  You can get ready cut sheets from kitchen shops like Lakeland or larger pieces you can cut to size at home from Amazon or similar.
* You don’t need to use your posh alcohol, keep that for best – these drinks get their taste from the additions, so basic gin, vodka, etc is fine.
* Blackberries – need to be decanted after 3 months otherwise they can get a bit woody, makes it perfect timing for Christmas drinking or giving! Try adding a bramley apple for a change.
* Damsons/cherries – leave stones in, it adds to the taste.  When you decant, try dipping the cherries in dark chocolate, yummy!
* Rose Hips – top and tail and cut in half, best to go for larger hips otherwise prep takes a while!
* Sloes – people say you should harvest after the first frost but apparently freezing them works too.  Prick with a pin before using.  Good to drink after a couple of months but can stay in the bottle for years, many have found themselves appreciating refound lost vintages, we were lucky enough to be given a bottle of Mr B’s late granny’s that must have been donkey’s years old – delicious!
PS:  Try adding your decanted sloes to rough cider (slider) or sherry (shlerry) and leave to steep. Don’t blame me if you start slurring when you taste them!
Kate Berry owns The Thatched Kitchen in Doddiscombsleigh. Pop along to her Facebook page to find out more:
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2 Responses
  • Sarah Ponti
    October 21, 2016

    YUM YUM xx

    • Devon Mum
      October 31, 2016

      Have you been brewing Sarah?

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