Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Sloe Gin

Last week's wild fruit horde was sweeter than ever for the simple reason that we brought home a huge amount of that acrid berry, the sloe.

Sloes are only really good for one thing and that is plonked in a jar or a bottle with a load of sugar and alcohol. In the raw form a bitten sloe can make even the most beautiful of faces turn inwards and cause children to run screaming. However, a long soak in sugar and booze and the true qualities show, permeating gin or vodka with unique floral flavour and smells making the risk of a nasty cut from its spiky home in the blackthorn bush all worthwhile.

I now wait patiently as the sloes sit in a demijohn in the garage doing what they do best. 3 months should do it but if you can resist it, the longer the marinade the better the flavour and a more intense, purple colour.

Sloe Gin
(Multiply the ingredients depending on your pickings)

1kg sloes
500g caster sugar
2 litres gin

1 - Wash and pick your sloes. Now the bit that causes debate. Do you spend an age pricking each berry to allow the juices to flow or do you freeze then thaw allowing the skin to burst naturally? It is up to you, but I bashed mine in a pestle and mortar and will sieve carefully when it comes to bottling.
2 - Pile into a sterilised demijohn or large clean bottles. Pour in the sugar and gin, seal tightly, shake well and place in a cool dark place. Give it a shake every week.
3 - After a minimum of 3 months, pour through a muslin cloth into clean sterilised bottles and it is ready to drink, however the longer you leave it the better it will get.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Wild Fruit Jam

A day of plundering this weekend, and what a plunder it turned out to be. We sneaked over to our 'secret' sloe berry location anticipating disappointment after last year's wash out. And there before our eyes were bush after bush of the acrid berry that somehow transforms gin into liquid gold and, quite possibly, my favourite drink.

After plucking several kilos of sloes, the trip home became bonus time as we came across damsons aplenty. A quick shake of the branches and it rained wild plums onto our heads. Nature has more than made up for last year's harvest drought.

It helps to have a few little ones in tow when it comes to gathering fruit. Make sure they have some protective gloves on and away you go. With elderberries and brambles being thrown into the mix too, we eventually came home with more fruit than you can, erm, shake a tree at.

The sloe gin can wait until next week but the other wild fruit went into the pot for some loose jam ready for the yoghurt and muesli, porridge, hot muffins and one or two cakes and scones. There is something uniquely satisfying having made something almost for free and that pleasure doubles when you can have fun with your friends and family during the process. Happy days...

Wild Fruit Jam

Makes one large jar

1kg of wild fruit such as damsons, brambles, elderberries and sloes
200g caster sugar

1 - Put a couple of clean jars with the lids off onto a hot oven and heat through for 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave in.
2 - Put the fruit and sugar into a pan and bring to the boil. Give it a stir then fast boil for 10 minutes.
3 - Take out your hot jars then push the jam through a sieve into the jam jars. Put on the lids and once cool, refrigerate. The jam should keep for 4 weeks.