The Cottage Smallholder

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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.

  Leave a reply


  1. the haw ketchup is an addition to the haw jelly post in the jams jellies section of the forum: if you struggle to find it I will create a page of its own…have fun!

  2. Helen Michael

    Thanks so much both of you- I am more excited than ever! Going away for a few days and ALMOST wish it weren’t so – then I could cook and concoct for a few more days 🙂

    Haw ketchup sounds yummy too! Is it in the pickles section?


  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Shelley

    Thanks – much appreciated!

  4. hi there
    The recipe for hawthorn brandy is thus;
    450g haws, 225g sugar and 600ML BRANDY.
    I didnt prick the haws and on reflection they really needed it;;
    However my favourite use of haws is to make ketchup with them;
    I think I have posted the recipe in the forum, if not I can post it later

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Helen

    I’ll try and answer as best I can.

    If the haws are sweet I’d just add a tablespoon of sugar to the brandy to start things off. You can always add more sugar at a later date.

    Quince jelly is easy – if you follow my recipe it’s a doddle. Freeze the pulp to add to Seville orange marmalade – recipe coming soon.

    Joanna from Joanna’s food has a recipe for quince

    Great that you are enjoying the site.

  6. Helen Michael

    Hi everyone and especially Fiona,

    I am so in awe of this blog which I have referred to on a nearly daily basis for about six weeks now! So far I have picked kilos of haws, rosehips, sloes, elderberries, blackberries, crabapples, japonica quince… and made all sorts of jellies and corresponding fruit cheeses as well as sloe gin and vodka (Frogatti you are not so much of a lonely fool… I did the almond extract thing too- and thankfully kitchen paper strips sorted it all out).

    I am about to try quince jelly using “proper” quince which I begged from a shop nearby (not cheap though!). I already have five jars of lovely japonica quince and crabaplle jelly- a beautiful terracotta colour and tastes amazing! I have read and re-read everyone’s tips about the fluid quantities… I want it to work very much!

    I am so intrigued by Shelley’s Hawthorn brandy!! I love haws and popped some in with the sloes, but I think their flavour was too subtle in comp to the sloes… How did you make it Shelley? How much sugar? (they are really sweet already, aren’t they?)

    Does anyone have any nice recipes for alcohol/ quince concoctions? I wondered about quince vodka…. any tips anyone???


  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Froggatti

    You need to remove the oil asap as it will ruin the sloe gin (this happened to me once and I ended up with 3 litres of stuff that tasted of disel fuel). If you decant the grog and using kitchen roll you can remove the oil. I’d do it over an evening. Good luck.

  8. froggatti


    I wonder if you may be able to offer some advice? On reading the recipe for Sloe Gin I decided to add the Almond essence ingredient for a change, however instead of adding pure essence I added almond extract. This latter substance is Almond extract mixed with Sunflower Oil and consequently I have little “oil pools” on the surface of my gin! Thankfully I’ve only done this to the first litre, but a number of questions arise will the oil impact the taste and can it be removed either now or prior to bottling? Feeling a bit of a fool!!!

  9. @Mrs B and Magic Cochin

    next time you make “Pflaumenmus” (I believe the correct English term for this preserve is Plum Butter – but I also like Purple Gloop) try soaking all the ingredients over night – it just enhances the flavour slightly. also if the plums or damsons are super sweet try making “Powidl”


  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Shelley

    Thanks for dropping by. Hawthorn brandy sounds interesting – I’d love to hear how it turns out.

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