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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

702 Comments

  1. Paul, Sheffield

    I’m making 2 bottles of sloe gin – one with sugar, and one with artificial sweetener (Canderel).

    I’m hoping the sweetener version will be as drinkable as the sugar version. We shall see in December! If anyone’s interested in the results I’ll post them here in 2.5 months…

  2. Hi Richard
    I have just been given a big basket of domestic damsons and and am going to make damson gin., some of which I want to give as Christmas presents.
    I wanted to ask if I make it in a large Kilner if it is OK to pour it off into suitable small sterilized bottles- presumably the keeping quality has to do with the sugar and alcohol, not hung to do with a seal on the container?
    Thank you
    Vivien

  3. Janet Coyle

    I have been making sloe and damson gin for about forty years. My grandmother made it for about forty years before that, and the recipe came from her grandmother.

    We never bother to prick the sloes or damsons. We just wash, pick off stalks and weigh them.
    We add two pounds of sugar to each two pounds of fruit, which might be a touch too sweet for some people. I love it! Mine is made in old glass sweet jars with screw top lids. The fruit goes in first, then the sugar, then a large bottle of gin. Once the lid is on, it is placed in a dark cupboard, or in a shed or garage for several weeks. Around mid-October, we usually stir it all up a bit with a large serving spoon, to encourage the sugar to dissolve. It is normal for the fruit to rise to the top. Damson or Sloe Gin will be ready to drink by Christmas, but will be better if left for two years after brewing. Mindyou, once tasted, i defy you to leave any undrunk until next year.

  4. Can you use caster sugar

  5. Therese Crowley

    CAN ANYONE HELP – love damson gin and this is my 1st attempt!

    Oh dear should have read your above recipes I was going away for the month of August and as the damsons were starting to fall I filled a jar with equal amounts sugar and damsons.

    Six weeks later after two weeks of daily shaking I opened the jar and the contents smell absolutely gorgeous BUT how much gin should I now put in I realise I should have put it in at the beginning but surely I can add it now or should I just make jam?

  6. Rob Graham

    Our family has been making sloe gin for I should think 50 years – I’m 75 and my mother was certainly making it when I was in my 20’s.

    If you have any concerns about the ripeness of the fruit, keep them in a polybag for a day or two and like nearly all fruit they will release ethylene gas which will enhance the ripening process (think the stories about bananas and ripening) – seemingly one of few fruits that does not ripen after being picked is the pineapple; today’s useless information :>)

    Secondly do NOT add sugar at the soaking stage as it will block the extraction of sugars and flavours from the fruit – this is pharmacologically correct. Far better anyway to get the flavour right to your taste by adding strong sugar syrup as you wish after the straining off at three months.

    And thirdly – there is this argument about using the freezer – 50+ years and it’s always been done that way in our family. That’s not to ripen the fruit, or replace the ‘pick after the first frost’, but to very effectively and efficiently rupture the skins of the sloes to let the juices out.

    I won’t enter the argument about good gin or bog standard gin – it’s always been the latter for us.
    Rob

  7. Suzy Hime

    Has anybody tried it using sweetener instead of sugar? Would it keep as well?

    • Richard McDonald

      YUCK!

      Sugar not only sweetens the gin but gives it body, sweetener if not chosen wisely would add a degree of bitterness that sloes already may have.

      As an aside once the gin is strained, use the leftovers to make some sloe gin jelly.

  8. Peter Hulse

    When they drink it, they will have taken in more sugar/carbohydrate/starch than usual, so either reduce the corresponding carbs at the nearest meal, or increase their insulin accordingly.

  9. Brian Thornton

    I think you could use an artificial sweetner such as aspartame, which can be bought as a powder (Canderel etc). In my experience, it tastes very like sugar, so will not really influence the overall flavour.

  10. Have two diabetic sons – think 4oz sugar may be too much for
    them. What do other people think?

    • Richard McDonald

      If they drink it at one sitting it would!
      I’m diabetic myself, sloe gin is for sipping in small quantities, so no need to worry.

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