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Two recipes: Wild Damson Gin and Sloe Gin recipes

Photo of a bowl of wid damsons

Wild damsons are a beautiful rich dark colour


Unlike sloes, wild damsons are hard to find. For every thirty wild plum trees there may be just one wild damson tree. When I spot wild damsons in the hedgerows, they are harvested into a special bag.

These, and the diminutive bullace, are the kings of hedgerow fruit. These tiny fruit make such an irresistible liqueur that overnight guests have actually turned down Danny’s famous cooked breakfast, and gone back to bed to sleep off the excesses of the night before.

Our damson and sloe gin is not the thick ultra sweet variety. We prefer the sugar to enhance rather than shield the flavour. Every three months or so it’s sampled and, if necessary, topped up with sugar. Usually no extra sugar is needed.

We try to keep our damson and sloe gin well away from the drinks tray! Each year we make a lot of fruit gin and vodka (more recipes to follow, in time). Sloe gin is the big craze at the moment around here, as sloes are more plentiful.

Here are our recipes for both. We are also starting experimenting with sloe gin see this post for details

Tips and tricks:

  • Make more than you need the first year, so you can compare different vintages. This liqueur does improve over time.
  • Some people drain the grog through muslin after a couple of months, to clarify the liqueur and bottle. We don’t bother as one old soak tipped that, once the gin is drunk, you can pour medium sherry on the fruit and start all over again! The latter is devilish and drinkable within three months. We have a recipe for this in our wine and gin section.
  • Keep your fruit gin away from the light as this will maintain the colour. Unless it is in a dark green or brown bottle. Wrapping it in brown parcel paper will keep out the light.
  • Make notes on a label of your fruit gin/vodka /sugar ratio and stick it onto the bottle(s) so that you have a record, if you make a particularly good batch. We note our responses as the grog matures. Yucky after sixth months can be to die for in a year (you will probably not remember without notes). Notes seem boring when you are making the grog but they are so worthwhile when you start again the next year. It won’t be long before you will get a feel of what works well for your taste (and the notes will come into their own).
  • Adding almond essence to sloe gin lifts it from good to great. I haven’t tried this with the damson gin but return in a years’ time for our review.
  • Don’t kill the liqueur with too much sugar at the start. Use the amount above to start your sloe or damson gin and then every couple of months take a tiny sip. At this time add more sugar if it is too sharp for your taste.
  • Gin v Vodka? Vodka can be used as the spirit for these recipes. Although I’m a vodka drinker, we tend to stick to a gin base for our fruit liqueurs.
  • A good damson gin can be made from ordinary damsons available in the shops. As they are bigger you would need to put them into a larger Le Parfait jar (I’d use a 2 litre size).
  • People have been picking sloes from September 1st around here. Some people say that you shouldn’t pick sloes until after the first frost. This can be circumvented by putting your sloes in the freezer overnight. We don’t bother with either method and always have great results.
  • This year we have made up a number of small (1lb honey jars) of sloe gin to give as Christmas presents.

 

Wild Damson Gin and sloe gin Recipes
Recipe Type: Liqueurs
Prep time: 15 mins
Total time: 15 mins
Ingredients
  • Wild damson gin:
  • 1lb/454gm of washed wild damsons
  • 6 ozs/168gm of white granulated sugar
  • 75cl bottle of medium quality gin
  • Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle with stopper/cork
  • Sloe Gin:
  • 1lb/454gm of washed sloes
  • 4 ozs/112gm of white granulated sugar
  • 75cl bottle of medium quality gin
  • Sterilised 1 litre (at least) Le Parfait jar or wide necked bottle
  • 1-2 drops of almond essence
Instructions
  1. Wild damson gin:
  2. Wash damsons well and discard any bad or bruised fruit. Prick fruit several times with a fork and place damsons in either a large
  3. Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle.
  4. Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with gin to the rim.
  5. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months, we usually let it mature for a year). If you are planning to drink this after 3 months, have a nip afetr a month, and top up with sugar to taste.
  6. Some people strain the grog (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for six months. We strain and bottle after a year. Don’t leave the straining process any longer than a year; leaving the fruit in too long can spoil the liqueur, as we found to our cost one year.
  7. Sloe gin:
  8. Wash sloes well and discard any bruised or rotten fruit. Prick fruit several times with a fork and place sloes in either a large Kilner/Le Parfait jar or a wide necked 1 litre bottle. I put several sloes in my palm to prick them rather than picking them up one by one.
  9. Using a funnel, add the sugar and top up with gin to the rim. Always open sugar bags over the sink as sugar tends to get caught in the folds at the top of the bag.
  10. Add the almond essence.
  11. Shake every day until the sugar is dissolved and then store in a cool, dark place until you can resist it no longer (leave for at least three months, we usually let it mature for a year).
  12. Some people strain the grog (through muslin/jelly bag) after 3 months and bottle it, leaving it mature for six months. We strain and bottle after a year.

  Leave a reply

594 Comments

  1. We have a bumper crop of damsons this year and have just been merrily harvesting, looking forward to following the recipes for damsons on your site! Especially the gin tipple :-)

    This is a fantastic web-site and I will no doubt be visiting frequently – thanks!

    Best wishes

    Linda

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Linda,

    I am delighted that you have a bumper crop of damsons! We don’t have damsons growing in our garden but I have found a few trees growing wild in the hedgerows locally…

    So pleased that you like our site!

  3. Have just been given a carrier bag full to the brim of damsons! I’m seven months pregnant at the moment so I’m not drinking, but am looking forward to trying the damson gin, as soon as I am able too! (Should be able to make a few bottles!)

    Thanks for the recipe!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jo,

    Lucky you being given a decent haul of damsons.

    Hope that you like our recipe!

  5. Pat Thornton

    Thanks for the recipes and ideas – keep up the good work.

    Now I live in Bulgaria there are many different kinds of plum trees; they seem to grow everywhere and are used to make a fiery brandy called rakia, which always seems to be drunk with salad.

    Can you tell me how to tell a damson from a tree that simply produces rather small plums? Are they really the same thing and does it matter?

    Some years ago I made some damson gin, at least I thought I had, however, I am now fairly certain that I actually used bulaces because they were so very, very sweet. Am I correct in thinking that a bullace is round – rather than plum shaped – and somewhat smaller than a damson?

    Whatever I had used, the reults were wonderful, so good, I drunk it all myself!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    The wild damson fruit is smaller and slimmer than a wild plum. The bowl in the picture is full of wild damsons, the bowl is about eight inches across. Damsons are quite sour when tasted.

    Bullaces are wild greengages, they are yellowish when ripe and are chubbier than a wild plum. They have a plum shape. They taste exactly the same as a greengage and are ripe towards the end of September in the UK.

    Sloes are round and dark and smaller than a damson.

    Damsons, sloes, bullaces and plums are all related (albeit distantly). I’m sorry but I can’t identify the fruit that you used for your gin.

    Bullace brandy is a big hit in our village. It is made by the old villagers. I have found where the bullaces grow, now I just need the recipe!

  7. Pat Thornton

    Thanks for the information; I will have to keep looking through my gardening books to see if I can find some pictures and compare the differences so I know what I’m using.

    Here there is a type of plum that seems to fruit the earliest, which is the size and shape of a rather large grape. It starts off a kind of apricot yellow colour in May when it’s edible but not sweet, by June it turns pinkish yellow and getting sweeter, if left until July it turns a deep red colour and is almost like eating sugar. They seem to grow all over the place, including hedgerows and although I don’t have one in my garden there are a couple in a piece of spare ground next door, so next year I’ll try these in my gin.

    Meanwhile, a friend assures me that they have a lot of sloes, so I’ll use your recipe to make sloe gin – assuming I can ever get past the 3 months stage without having tested it all away!

  8. Dear Pat,
    Down here in darkest Devon, have found Damsons whilst on a recce. for sloes. Didn’t know they are o.k. in Aug. Found your site just in the nick of time. Happy days. regards Jenny

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat,

    The range of hedgerow fruit is massive, isn’t it. I have found Richard Mabey’s book, “Food for Free” very handy for identification purposes.

    Hi Jenny,

    Lucky you finding wild damsons, they are rare and make this best gin tipple.

  10. Louisa Chamberlain

    Brilliant, i’ve finally found a site with wild damson and sloe gin recipes. I have both growing in my garden so better get busy making. I wondered if you could tell me where to get bottles/jars from for making the gin, and also wondered if you could use elderberries in gin or vodka as can’t find any recipes anywhere?

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