Last winter I decided to make my own sloe gin. After stumbling across a few blackthorn bushes in local woodland, literally 300 yards from my home, my wife and I decided to risk permanent scarring for the sake of our favourite tipple. 8 months on, we are still enjoying our efforts, but the demi john had to be emptied for use elsewhere which left me with a bit of a dilemma; what was I to do with the hundreds of gin swollen berries?
If you have ever tasted a sloe berry picked fresh from a bush, you are unlikely to forget the experience. They are so acrid that just one nibble and your mouth seizes up into a dry mass. Horrendous. Quite how such a nasty tasting berry infuses gin with sensuous tastes and smells is beyond me but the miracle does happen. The process also takes away any lingering bitterness in the berry and what you are left with is a pleasant, sweet and chewy berry with the exception of a large stone.
I guessed that the delicious left over’s would be more suited to a boozy cake than the compost heap. What I didn't guess was one hour of stone picking which has left me with stained fingers (if you can't be bothered with this, steep some currants and sultanas in gin overnight to replace). The resulting cake was worth all of the effort though. Moist and crumbly, heady and sensuous with the unmistakeable hit of sloe gin with each mouthful. One to hide from the nipper but one for us adults to indulge in for a lovely alternative take on a typical fruit cake. We ate ours with chilled shots of sloe gin, and the memories of this unexpected invention will linger long after the stains in my fingers are gone come sloe picking time at the end of the year. Dive in.
Sloe Berry Loaf Cake
75g Demerara sugar
75g muscovado sugar
150g butter or margarine (I actually used low fat marg and it was perfect!)
200g sloe berries from home made sloe gin, stones removed
Half tsp cinnamon
A grating of nutmeg
A pinch of ground cloves
A small glass of sloe gin
150g self raising flour
50g ground almonds
1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees C, GM3. Butter and line a medium loaf tin.
2 - Put the sugars, butter, berries and spices into a pan and gently heat until melted and well combined. Let it cool a little.
3 - Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Tip in the ground almonds and pour in the contents of the pan. Stir thoroughly until combined.
4 - Crack in the eggs and beat in until combined. Finally, stir in the gin.
5 - Pour into the prepared loaf tin, sprinkle with a little Demerara sugar and bake on the middle shelf for 50-60 minutes.
6 - Allow to cool slightly then turn onto a wire rack. This cake will keep well wrapped in shrink wrap and foil for 3-4 weeks and will improve with age.