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The great sloe gin challenge: The Results

Photo: Fat sloes on a blackthorn bush

Photo: Fat sloes on a blackthorn bush

Picking sloes to make sloe gin is hugely popular in the UK.  Perhaps because it combines the hunter gatherer instinct and the delight of making your own tasty grog. Although traditionally it is drunk at Christmas, it’s the most popular drink to be proffered in a hip flask out here in the country. There is a lot of competition over who has the best brew, secret recipes are not aired and shared. To be offered a sip of ten year old sloe gin is an honour, not to be turned down.

It’s two years since we completed this challenge and I must admit that I’ve been loathe to publish our results. ‘Why?’ I hear you cry. ‘These results could help me.’ Possibly – if it’s a late sloe year and you have access to your own fruit. Because the sloe gin with the best flavour was from sloes left till the first frosts.

The sloes put in the freezer overnight came second and the sloes picked and pricked and put straight into jars of gin came third.

I reckon that the naturally frosted sloes were bigger, mature, more flavoursome fruit. But as sloes are very early this year to wait until the first frosts is wanton folly as all that would be left would be shrivelled husks. So I’m going down the over night in the freezer route this year. I’m also going to save some sloe stones to try and grow my own blackthorn thicket in the cottage garden.

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  1. Bruce the Sloe

    Hi. Just put my Sloes from freezer into action ( been in freezer for six months now, still seem fresh and squashy!) Will be using my old recipe of 1Lb. Sloes, 1 pint (cheapest Gin) and 6Oz’s sugar. The old shaking every day sometimes gets a bit boring, so an alternative is stick the demijohn in the car boot and let the journey to work take the strain!! Also for fresh Sloes try using a wire brush (New) to prick multi berries at a time!! Happy drinking.
    Hip flasks are great, you’ll always be popular!!!!

  2. Hmm. I freeze mine and then pour boiling water on them and then drain, the skins rupture and I scoop them into the demi john, pour on the sugar( granulated), add a few blanched almonds, shake vigorously which helps to break them down a little more.. Pour in the gin, shake again and daily until the sugar has dissolved. Works a treat.

  3. Hi Fiona,
    Went on a walk yesterday and the sloes are abundant. As I’m on the IOW I’m wondering if I should even wait for a frost, as it may not happen until December, and some of the berries seem to be shrivelled already. May only have the freezer option after all. Ant thoughts?

  4. Hello! I followed your wonderful recipe a couple of years ago and produced some fantastic sloe gin. I had planned to repeat the process last year but for one reason and another only got around to picking and freezing the sloes, and that’s where the poor things have been ever since.
    So, my question is, are my one-year old frozen sloes too old for gin? Sadly I suspect the answer is yes, but I’m not willing to give up on the idea until I know for sure – I live in the city and didn’t get around to sloe hunting this year and my stocks are running low!

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Annie

      Personally I’d give it a go. I’ve got 2 year old sloes in the freezer and wouldn’t toss them.

  5. Jim Walton

    Making my first ever batch of Sloe Gin this year. Now it must be the Engineer in me but having spent a long time pricking damsons when making a batch of damson gin earlier in the year, the idea of pricking the smaller sloe didn’t fill me with joy. There must be an easier/more efficient way than using a fork. And there is! Got eh four sided cheese grater out and used the side for zesting fruit. The method is easy, grab a handful of sloes and push them over the zester using the flat of your hand for pressure – hey presto, a dozen sloes ‘pricked’ in under 2 seconds!!!

  6. I just wanted to share…
    I was promised the fruit of two quince trees this year in return for a jar of product. I have just picked 97lbs of fruit! So, jelly, jam, membrillo, cotignac, marmalade. Any other ideas?

  7. Kathrine

    I’ve just set about making my Sloe Gin for this year but was wondering if anyone had a good recipe for Sloe Chutney (using drained sloes). I saw it at a Farmer’s market and am keen to recreate!!!
    Thanks Kat

    • Apparently you can make something called ‘sloe jacks’ a play on flap jacks…it is recommended you don’t drive for 48 hours after having eaten them!? Not surprising really! Happy baking.?

  8. Hi,

    Niamh could I please have that recipe for the sloe and apple jelly. I have three large sloe bushes in my garden and they are covered. Going to make sloe gin and looking for other uses. Thanks June

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