The sloe season usually begins in October; however, in particularly wet weather, the berries can be ripe enough to harvest as early as September. This is excellent news for gin lovers, as you can get a head start on making your own sloe gin this season. If you’d like to have a shot at making this warming autumn beverage, our guide is sure to help you get the best from your sloes, from picking tips right up to flavouring your very own spirit!
What is Gin?
First off, what actually is gin? Well, it’s a neutral spirit that has been flavoured with botanicals – characteristically, junipers. The EU definition states that to class as a ‘gin’, the ABV must be at least 37.5. There are several different methods of creating gin, which each produce a different type of gin. These include compound gin, pot-distilled gin and column distilled gin.
This type of gin is a spirit combined with botanicals; consequently, compound gin is the type of gin that this guide will help you to make! Without the final distilling process, the end product may not have the clarity of those that you would buy in a shop (although there are ways to increase the clarity). However, this doesn’t mean it won’t still be just as delicious!
When To Pick Your Sloes:
As mentioned, the sloe season typically spans from October to November, but it is highly weather dependent. If you pick the sloes early on in the season, they tend to be more bitter, however, the longer you wait, the more that bitterness mellows and the richer the fruity flavour. You might want to pick sloes sporadically through the season and make a few batches. This will really show you how the taste and flavours can differ. You’ll usually find these on a long country walk hidden in hedgerows and other natural areas. But before you head out to pick some of these delicious autumn fruits, make sure you dress up in your warm country clothing and a good pair of boots so you can stay out for as long as possible collecting tasty treats!
Sloes are ripe for picking when they turn a rich bluey-purple hue; don’t be tempted to gather them while they still have a green tinge or are entirely green as these will not give you the best results!
Homemade Gin Recipe:
1L High-Quality Vodka
20g Juniper Berries
Botanicals of your choice (we recommend flavours such as cardamom pods, coriander seeds, orange peel and cinnamon)
How To Make Your Gin:
This gin recipe isn’t what we’d call traditional, as gin made in a proper distillery is flavoured with delicate botanicals and created from scratch. However, this method will provide you with a delicious alternative – perfect to give as a gift – that you can say you’ve made yourself!
- Sterilize a large glass jar (big enough to fit the entire 1L of vodka, plus some) with boiling water.
- Add the vodka and juniper berries to the jar, shake and leave to steep for 12-24 hours.
- Add in any other botanical flavours you wish to enjoy (in small quantities, no more than a teaspoon at a time). Shake the jar again, and leave to further infuse for around 24 hours.
- Taste a little bit of the gin mixture and decide whether you would like a stronger juniper flavour or more of the botanical flavours. If so, leave to steep for longer. Usually, by this time, the vodka will have taken on enough of the flavourings, and you’ll be ready to move to the next step.
- Strain the gin through a muslin cloth to leave a smooth mixture, then leave to sit for a few days, and strain once more.
- For added clarity, pop the gin in the freezer and leave to defrost over a clean muslin cloth.
If you’d like to enjoy a tasty tipple of sloe gin but don’t have the time to make it yourself, why not invest in a bottle of our FFF Sloe Gin instead? Alternatively, head to our blog now to discover what other delicious delights you could make with our selection of homemade recipes including the ultimate blackberry crumble and the sweetest homemade jam!