October marks the time to make a batch of slow gin which will be ready to drink in Christmas Eve. I have been perfecting my recipe for three decades.
There are myths surrounding the best way to make this seasonal tipple from waiting until the first frost of Autumn to individually picking each sloe with a silver needle, the quantity of sugar and the addition of a crushed almond.
The most important part of the production of your own infused sloe gin is to use a good quality gin and certainly a classic London Dry style at that. With the growth in the gin market of the past decade some new age gins of which there are many using a vast array of botanicals can end up fighting with the taste and aroma of the sloe. I have in the past made sloe infused grappa, cognac and vodka, however the marriage of sloe and juniper work best in my opinion.
With a passion for all things vintage I usually source some old bottles and decanters for this annual ritual.
For years I had added the sugar at the time of infusing the gin with the ripe sloes, this years crop were gathered from the Thames Path not more than half a mile away from home. In past years I have harvested from the South Downs, The Chiltern Hills, Wiltshire and Somerset. This year the sloe berries are plump and have ripened early. This fact alone dispels the need to wait for the first frost. If you press and sloe between your fingers and it bursts then you know the time is right to harvest.
In past years I have sat in the kitchen preparing the sloes by first washing any bird deposits off and it gets rid of any remains of the pollinated flower, dust and leaf debris. I then have spent time pricking each sloe twice and then infusing about half a pound of sloe berries to a standard 70cl bottle of gin. I was always an advocate of Plymouth Gin but have tried other London Dry Gins in recent years.
The issue of using some of the new gin brands is that their botanical mix fight with the essence of the sloe, especially brands such as Hendricks with its distinctive cucumber note. There gins have other botanicals which are too dominant so I believe less is more in this case.
So this afternoon will be spent making more sloe gin and watching the rugby. As for tomorrow I will embark on making a new citrus gin liqueur…