In common with much of this years fruit harvest, Sloes appear to have ripened quite early, but unlike most fruits it can be quite difficult to tell whether a Sloe berry is properly ripe from its taste. The old rule of thumb is to wait until the first frost before picking your Sloes, but the recent trend for warmer weather in Autumn can make for very late frosts, and therefore this rule can't be relied on if you want to get your Sloes harvested before the Blackbirds do!
Despite this being a very poor year for Sloes in the village, we managed to pick a couple of pound of berries, the purply-blue bloom, and soft texture being our clue to ripeness. Kevin at the Red Lion bravely chewed on a berry and pronounced them ripe and ready for the Gin. He's been picking Sloes a good deal longer than us, so his judgment was good enough for me.
Should you be lucky enough to have some Sloes this year, here's the recipe we use for our Sloe Gin. Adjust the sugar up or down to taste (up quite a bit in Karens case), and feel free to add a little Vanilla Essence should the mood take you:
- Take 1lb of Sloes, prick them all over with a pin, and remove any
stalks if necessary
- Place in a sealable glass jar with 4oz sugar
- Add a 70cl bottle of Gin
- Seal and give a shake every day until all the sugar has dissolved
- Leave until Christmas, shaking occasionally, then strain into attractive
bottles and label