The Cottage Smallholder


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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 David,

    I am widly envious.

    Thanks for being a prince and leaving the location of your haul!

  2. We have just picked about 12kg of wild damsons round the corner from where we live. There are absolutely tons of them, free for the taking. If you live nearby or are passing through, the place is here http://pininthemap.com/pp81ad2a8c5a3088bf6 (I hope hyperlinks work on this site). Get there quick before they all go!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Peter,

    I pick some sloes now and freeze them just in case the hedgerows are bare at the end of October. I agree that sloes are best left on the trees to mature.

    Great idea mashing the fruit with a potato masher. Also like the idea of covering the bottle with a cereal box to keep out the light.

    I’d be interested to hear about your pulp squeezing experiment.

    Glad you are enjoying the site.

    Fiona

  4. peter powell

    Hello Pat.
    Damson’s are a little late this season around here, (nott’s area) but testing the sloe’s they appear on course for late Oct/ Nov; harvesting. I’ve never known sloe’s ready for picking in August, even as boy when living in glorious Devon. I think the key to the taste lay’s in harvesting fruit when ripe.
    Pricking the fruit?. Far to laborious for me. (i’m lazy). This is my routine. After picking over and destorking, the fruit is washed in warm water, being slightly warm help the drying stage. Next place two or three handfull’s of fruit at a time in a s/steel baking dish. Then using a s/steel potatoe masher lightly crush them to break skin’s.( if you follow my method do’nt do your money on plastic masher’s, John Lewis sell good s/steel one’s). To keep light out of bottle, drop a serial box over them, quick and easy for dayly shaking. :-L~~ Good exercising in it?. I’m interesed how other’s find this method.
    I’m working on an idea to squeeze the last drop of liquid from the pulp (yes i’m also mean). Let you know if it’s successful.
    Excellent site.
    Regard’s. Peter.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Paul,

    You can use brown sugar for fruit gin but it just doesn’t seem to taste as good. Heaven knows why. If I had to use brown, I’d go for the palest brown sugar.

    Hi Beryl,

    It’s difficult to say without seeing the fruit. Sloes are round. Wild damsons are more like an olive in shape. I have a picture of a wild damson, a bullace and a cherry or wild plum here http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/?p=432

  6. Do sloes go soft when ripe? The ones I have seem to, or could they be something else. About the size of cherries

  7. Paul Dailey

    I have found a bumper crop in our local hedgerows but we do not use white sugar, only demerara, is it OK to use for damson Gin?

    Paul

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Mark

    Lucky you. I have drawn a blank on finding wild damsons around here this year, except for a few.

  9. A bloke down the pub (our tame countryman) gave me about 5lb of damsons this week. Tomorrow, some of them go into gin.

    He reckons that there are millions more damsons where he took his from (an old, abandoned farm) and he must have given away 30lb or more.

    He’s given me some rough directions, so I may go and get some more.

  10. Phew!! Thanks for the information.Its my first attempt so I’m hoping it will turn out ok!Many thanks, Maggs

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