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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. shelley

    I love your blog and have used a few of your recipes now. Sloe gin is always good but this year we are making hawthorn brandy. We live in the south of france and the trees are laden with the berries this year. The french seem to think they are poisonous so we have free access!!

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Kirstie

    This sounds like Bruadar. See Dai’s recipe near the bottom of the comments on this post

  3. Kirstie

    I’ve made Sloe Gin for a number of years, this year I thought I’d try something new – Sloe Whiskey. I didn’t have a recipe so I kinda made it up and will have to wait and see if it works, but did 1 litre, with one half I used sugar, with the other I used honey. Anyone tried this before? How did you get on? What quantities did you use?

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi KateM

    Putting the sloes in the freezer splits the skins so happy, easy sloe gin making.

  5. Hi, Found my first sloe bushes today (I have been looking for ages) and picked about 2lbs. Going to try the freezer method – can I just check, do I still need to prick them after they have been in the freezer?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Celia

    Hijack away. Good to have feedback on Mrs B’s recipe.

    Hi Spendltv

    Don’t worry. The amount of raspberries is the minimum that you need for the recipe.

    Now we grow our own I’m often much more liberal with the raspberries. The rest of the ingredients stay the same.

  7. Hello.

    I have just spent a long afternoon, bottling a variety of fruits with Gin mainly. I have done this for several years, although not on quite such a large scale, and never before have I bothered to note what i have done.

    I have one small question about some of my endeavours. The recipe you published several years back for raspberry gin has a small amount of raspberries and sugar to a large amount of gin (300g of each to 1.5 litres of gin) My brews have much less gin, as I began making them in much smaller bottles before I re-red your recipe. Will I end up with a raspberry sludge as opposed to a smooth liqueur…? Should I attempt to fix this now or is it still worth keeping it…?


  8. Magic Cochin

    If Mrs B is on-line, I like to thank her for the recipe above. I picked 3 kilos of damsons last night and set too following her recipe. It was just before ‘University Challenge’ started on TV…

    … well, many hours later and much purpleness in the kitchen and on my fingers and arms and T-shirt, while I mulyi-tasked between cauldron stiringa and designing the page layouts for the Village Magazine, I eventually potted up the rich purple unction into 6 and a bit jars.

    I’m looking forward to a dollup of this wonderful conserve with a slice of cold goose on Boxing Day 🙂

    Best wishes

    (Fn & D – sorry for hihjacking the comments column for a pm for Mrs B, I’ll save a pot of purple gloop especially for you)

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jan

    No need to prick/freeze the damsons. Good luck 🙂

  10. I’m having a go at damson gin this year – do you think I shuld freeze the damsons first? (I found that when I froze sloes first there was no need to prick them; the freezing had caused the skins to rupture, which was a bonus!)

    By the way, your September 2006 entry about damson gin is top of the list on a google search!

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