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. How’s the sloe crop this year anyone? Is it time to go foraging yet? It’s my first time making sloe gin and I’m v excited.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Nicola

    there are loads of things that you can do with the left over sloes.

    Top up the bottle with dry sherry and let this steep for three months.

    Make slider – top up the sloes with cider but use plastic bottles as this is highly explosive.

    Put a few unstoned sloes in an apple crumble to insure a good after lunch snooze.

    Dip unstoned sloes in melted chocolate to make sweets for adults.

    That should keep you going for a bit. The steeped sloes keep for ages in the bottle BTW

  3. Nicola

    I’ve got rather a lot of sloe gin and vodka on the go at the moment – does anyone have any ideas/recipes for the leftover sloes, it seems such a waste

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Corowe

    I much prefer sloe vodka to sloe gin. Needless to say it doesn’t last long in this cottage!

    Hi Shelley

    Definitely going to try haw brandy next year. Thanks for the tip!

  5. mmmm
    tried the haw brandy for the first time a week ago – it was rather moreish and hubby had to pull me away after a bit 🙂
    It is deliciously fruity and suite sweet; really mellows the brandy

  6. Silly me – it’s LAST year, of course.

  7. It seems a little “old hat” to talk about sloe gin now, well after the competion, but this year saw a bumper crop so I made it for the first time. When I produced my one bottle for my eldest daughter’s vodka-loving partner to try, he couldn’t keep his hands off it! Wish I’d made a larger investment now. Definately more next year. Thanks for the inspiration.

  8. thanks so much fiona; it is hugely appreciated!

  9. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Helen

    You’ll be experimenting with your preserves in no time at all!

    Hi Shelley

    Thanks for assisting! Got your mustard powder and will post in the next couple of days.

  10. Helen Michael

    wow, real-time preserve-blogging: this is what life is really all about 🙂

    Thanks Shelley, I will look for it now. I wish I could retaliate with a revelation of my own, but I am so very new to all this…


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