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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

709 Comments

  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Rosalind,

    Lucky you having your own damson tree. Damson gin is a fabulous present. Those Ikea jars are great value – worth a trip just to get the jars. Thanks for leaving a comment.

  2. Rosalind

    For the first time in my life I am picking fruit from my garden and they are damsons. Moved here last year. Thank you for a great website. I have a bumper crop and am busy making Christmas presents. I managed to find some good jars at Ikea for only £1.49. Thanks for the tip for the gin at Asda.

  3. I’ve just been to visit friends who have a couple of ancient damson trees in their garden. This year they had a bumper harvest – so many they couldn’t give them away!!

    Over the weekend we made jam (2kg damsons 2kg sugar 700ml water = yummy) and I’ve brought home a cooking pot full of ripe damsons. Damson gin here I come….

    Keith.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Thanks for the tip, Hilary.

  5. Hilary Milburn

    HI Ikea do a range of sealed glass jars which are cheap and eminently suitable for fruit gins.

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kate M,

    Great idea. I’m going to forage for damsons this weekend and make the liqueur chocs for Christmas too. Thanks for the tip.

  7. Thanks for the recipes – I had intended to make damson wine, but will start with damson gin instead. A friend suggested that if I start damson gin now, at Christmas can remove fruit from jar carefully, de-stone them and then roll them in chocolate for a delicious home-made chocolate liqueur.

    It sounds scrummy…!

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Christof,

    Thanks for dropping by and leaving the tip that sloes are early this year. I must go and forage at the weekend.

    I hide a few bottles in the cottage and forget about them. The discovery is always a joy.

    The thick sloe gin has masses of sugar in it. My aunt used to make the thick type, it takes a good few years to mature. Unfortunately I don’t have the recipe and she died before I got into making fruit liqueurs.

    I am really keen to try making cider this year. Do you have a good recipe?

  9. Christof

    Hello & Greetings from Portland Dorset.

    I think everybody down this end of the country will agree that we are ahead of the season by at least 3-5 weeks. Not sure if its the sun/rain that™s done it, but this time last year, the sloes were small and green.

    Today with the help from my friend we where picking fat juicy black sloes from the old railway line in Weymouth. Not even looked at the island stock yet, but I am sure they will be just the same.

    Last years gin just does not have the colour of 2005’s batch, but tastes good none the less. I put this down to picking just a tad too early maybe. This year however is a bumper crop year and I intend to make some now and then re pick at the end of Sept and make another batch then.

    The trouble is hiding a bottle or two so that it has a chance to mature lol and not get drunk. I should have also started buying in Gin way back, so that the cost is spread out over the year. Have stuck with Asda Gin again, which as well as being cheaper, is still not bad on taste.

    Could anybody tell me how to produce the thicker version of sloe gin that I have seen and is like a very strong liquor and very dark in colour.

    Going to be a very busy month as I have just been rung from my friend, who has told me the apples are ahead of time too and we need to start thinking about cider production :). 15 gallons last year and maybe 30 gallons this year….. Hic. 🙂

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Louisa,

    We are impressed that you have sloes and wild damsons growing in your garden! Where do you live?

    When you make fruit gin you will be left with the bottles that contained the gin. If the fruit is small, you can use these bottles to hold the sloe or damson gin. The fruit and sugar take up quite a bit of space – so you will need more empty bottles. Approximately a third more.

    If the fruit can not pass through the neck of a bottle you need a Le Parfait jar (the sort of jar that has a large lid and seal). We bought our jars locally at the kitchen shop. They are a good investment as they can be used year after year. We sterilise the rubber rings each year. Some people replace these each year. These rubber seals are generally available at John Lewis.

    If you or friends are going to France in a car ask them to bring back some Le Parfait jars as they are so much cheaper over there.

    Elderberries in gin? I haven’t tried this but think it would work. I’d fill the container a quarter full with destalked elderberries and top up the container with enough sugar to reach half full (they are very bitter) before adding the gin. I am going to try this myself and will report back around Christmas. I think that it would work well but there are no guarantees. If no one is making elderberry gin, there could very well be a reason for this desert. Or it could be that you are the first person to think of this, Louisa. Time will tell!

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