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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. Hi
    I notice above someone mentioned making SLIDER out of leftover sloes how is this made apart from adding the cider to the sloes?
    Does it need to be left for a certain amount of time?

    Have made both sloe gin & vodka and both were yummmmmy and I am not a big gin fan.
    Also tried sloe & apple jelly this year and my son who doesn’t eat jam or anything like that has been converted he loves it.


  2. And whilst I’m freezing stuff!
    What about quinces, I believe you have to cook them down to a pulp and then freeze that?

  3. Help! I am new to sloe gin making and I think I’ve got off to a bad start. I picked about 2lbs of sloes the last week of August: I’ve left them in a bag to ripen(?!) and their blue hue is now replaced by black, but the berries are softer. Should I throw them away and go back for fresh ones? I hate to waste them.

  4. There is a fabulous crop of crabapples hanging heavy on the trees at the moment, but I’m too busy to do much with them currently.
    Can you freeze them, or will they turn brown? Will freezing them affect the amount of pectin in them, and therefore will I have to add pectin when I make jelly?
    Can you freeze elderberries for making wine at a later date? Will it alter anything?

    • Fiona Nevile

      You can freeze crabapples and elderberries for later! Treat them exactly the same as fresh.

  5. Having just moved to Norfolk we were delighted to discover that we have sloes in part of our boundary hedge. They have now been picked and bottled as per recipes I found.

    How long should it be brewed before decanting into bottles?


  6. Jennyellow

    “You need to remove the oil asap..decant the grog and using kitchen roll you can remove the oil. I™d do it over an evening. Good luck”

    This has also happened to me!!! (it was going so well 🙁 Do I pour through a sieve lined with kitchen roll or dab at the surface? I take ‘over an evening’ to mean multiple strains….how many roughly?

    • Yes, me too. Just read the contents and only 5% is almond. The rest is rapeseed oil. Have used lots of small pieces of kitchen towel slid across the surface of kilner jar to remove most of the oil film. I have another bottle to deal with also.

  7. I found this site yesterday, and I just LOVE it!
    A question – I was given 12lbs of quinces, and am trying different things with them. I found a recipe in last weeks Daily Telegraph, for quince ratafia. You put 1/3 grated quince, 1/3 spiced sugar and 1/3 vodka or brandy. Well I found a recipe for spiced sugar on t’internet, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. It is very, VERY spicy smelling. Would antone have another recipe for this? Also, what do I do with the concoction? Strain it after a month? or three? or will the quince just disintegrate? Thanking you all in advance.

  8. Hi Fiona, I wonder if you could help me please? I’ve just lobbed all my sloe gin ingredients into a preserving jar, only to find it’s not airtight and I’ve got gin sloshing out round the rubber seal. Is this going to cause a problem with the production of my sloe gin or will it be fine, I’ll just have to stir it instead of shaking it every now and then?

    Thanks in advance.

    love your blog 🙂

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Wicky

      The jar needs to be airtight. Perhaps a new rubber seal would be a good idea. I always make mine in old gin bottles now. This works well. Try the local pub and transfer the jar contents would be my solution. Don’t worry a few days won’t affect the brew.

  9. Stephanie if you see two posts above there is few ideas of what to do with left over sloes 🙂

    To answer above post as to when the slows are ready most people say better to wait til after the first frost but round near me’ I have started picking as they are very ripe now so by time first frost comes they will be shrivelled up and wasted!

    I have tried different Gins,etc this year. Am testing out different levels of sugar to see what sort of sweetness is best and also have some with vanilla in this year to see how that tastes too.

    Along with those been making tomato&chilli chutney,rosehip syrup,choccies with different filling (will be making sloe ones later in the year!)

    Not sure if anyone else found this but my slows seem to always be found near rosehips?! Wonder if someone planted them awhile ago as there are loads of rosehips here! Not quite sure what else to make with them?! Ideas?!

    Anyway going back to sloes,don’t make mistake I did the first year if it’s first time doing this! I used the gin bottles to store it all in but when it came time toputting the slows in the bottle the ripest biggest ones didn’t fit!! So would recommend using kilner jars or something similar rather than a normal wine sized bottle!

  10. stephanie

    Sloe Gin I love – but I hate binning the sloes afterwards.
    I’m about to bottle last years and start this years brew…

    any suggestions for last years boozy sloes?

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