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Magically transform sour sloes

All Areas > Food & Drink > Wild Food Foraging

Author: Steven Hawley, Posted: Thursday, 24th September 2015, 08:00

As winter starts to rattle its sabre, hedgerow harvests become more scarce so it’s time to start preserving if you want a steady supply of free nosh to get you through to spring. I think you should prioritise and start by preserving some alcohol!

During previous outings, you should have started to notice Blackthorn trees producing miniature plum like berries, called sloes, along roadsides or round the edges of fields. The Blackthorn can be identified by its long needle-sharp spines and leaves, which are oval in shape and serrated round the edges. The sloes are a light blueish purple in colour and if you’re brave enough to bite into one your tongue will grow hair and your face will want to turn inside out! But soak them in gin and sugar for a couple of months and that astringent sourness transforms into something magical.

Harvest sloes after the first frost of the year and, if you’re a fan of tradition, prick each sloe with the spine of the tree they were picked from. Failing that, a fork will suffice.

It should be ready at the end of January
Half fill an old sterilised sauce jar with sloes, add about 100g of sugar per 1 pint of berries (pack as many as you can into a pint glass without bursting them to acquire that measurement) and pop in one or two cloves if you feel like it. Fill to the neck with gin and seal the lid on tightly. Store in a cool dark place, the under stairs cupboard for instance, and turn the jar over once a day for two weeks then once a week for about three months. It should be ready to drain into clean sterile bottles toward the end of January. Leave to stand for another month to let any sediment settle and carefully decant into some sterile decorative bottles, once more leaving the sediment behind for clarity.

All that’s left to do is invite some friends round and enjoy your sloe gin! Please remember to drink responsibly.

If you’re not 100% sure that the plant you’re picking is safe for human consumption, don’t pick it. If you’re prone to food allergies, or pregnant, always seek medical advice before consuming anything foraged in the wild.

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