Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Slow Gin

(Warning – this post is not about cake!)
I am late for everything. It's not that I don't try. I try really hard. Honest! It's worse when I have loads of time because then I think 'oh, I have loads of time' and then I start faffing about, the time disappears, and I'm late. It's at the point now that people just expect me to be late: last one ready, last one there, birthday cards/presents 2 days late... That doesn't stop the guilt I feel when I am late, because I do feel bad, but it also doesn't give me any incentive to change my ways.

Plus, I have scientific proof that it is imbedded in my genes.

But now it seems that this lateness has drifted into making my sloe gin breaking all the rules of an age old tradition! :/

Sloe berries come from the Blackthorn Tree. What is interesting about the Blackthorn tree is that it is surrounded in mystery and is depicted in folklore as a tree of ill omen. *Geek alert* A branch of the blackthorn tree is also used in a Snatcher’s wand in Harry Potter. Harry does not enjoy it so much when he is forced to use said wand. Strangely, this endears me to the tree and makes me feel like I’ve made some special potion and not just a (hopefully) delicious alcoholic beverage. Let’s ignore that it is also associated with death… Grim.)

The berries produced on the Blackthorn are round and a beautiful deep blue but they are horribly bitter to eat. Even the birds have to be desperate to eat them. They are, however, excellent for making gin.

I’ve tried very hard to find out how sloe gin actually came into being but only seem to be able to find the same very elusive answer: the people of Britain have been making sloe gin for hundreds of years. But whatever the reason, sloe gin has been a wintery/Christmassy tradition for a long time, and I managed to get behind on the traditional processes.

The usual time to gather your sloes is the end of October/beginning of November, and normally when the sloes have experienced their first frost. Because sloes have been so sparse this year and we were worried about the longevity of the ones we did find*, I collected mine at the beginning of October and popped them in the freezer to simulate the ‘frost’ part. 

(*I have become one of those people who keep their source of sloes a closely guarded secret, even more so because they have been in such short supply this year. Sorry!)

This is where I got behind.

For some reason, my sloes got left in the freezer until late November. The tradition of sloe gin is that they are collected and put into the gin so that enough time has passed for the flavours to infuse and to be ready to drink at Christmas. Mine won’t be ready.

I was so excited about giving my homemade gin as Christmas presents but that is definitely not going to happen this year. Although I have read that the gin tastes better 1 -3 years after the berries have been removed and the drink has had time to mature so I am going to pretend that this was my plan all along.   

Anyway here is my ever so simple, and ever so late, recipe for sloe gin, which, if you managed to find any sloes, should have been started months ago.

1 litre gin
1lb sloe berries
500g caster sugar

You will also need a couple of bottles or a large container to keep the gin in. The vessel also needs a lid so you can shake the mixture. A person with common sense probably doesn’t need to be told that the litre of gin and the berry/sugar mixture won’t fit in the litre bottle the gin comes in, but I made that mistake and thought I’d highlight that you’ll need a vessel of bigger volume!

-        Weigh out the sloes and prick each one to break the skin. (Folklore says this should
       be done with something silver!)
-        Pop them into your vessel
-        Weigh out the sugar and pour it into the vessel with the sloes
-        Pour in your gin
-        Give the vessel a quick shake and tip to make sure everything is getting mixed 
-        For the first couple of weeks the mixture will need to be shaken every other day,
       after that it just needs a bit of a tip about once a week or so.
-        Leave the sloes in the gin for about 2-3 months
-       After this time, strain the sloe gin through a very fine sieve or muslin into a
       sterilised bottle and enjoy (next Christmas)!

This better be worth it... 
Vicky x

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