Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Sloe Gin Alchemy

This week I have mainly been getting excited by hedge rows (I know it’s sad). On a recent walk near my mum’s house, I literally nearly wet my pants (Lyne and my Mum will account for this) when I noticed a treasure trove of sloe berries. Although most gin manufactures have caught on to the idea of mass producing sloe gin, bought sloe gin is in fact no way a scrumptious as the real deal. The shear joy in hunting and gathering these elusive suckers is part of the alchemy of sloe gin.

Some of the pleasure I gain from consuming and making sloe gin is in the story and the history it connects me to. I first encountered Sloe gin through my Grandma Mim. It was not long after my Dad had died and it was around Christmas. Grandma and Granddad Mim and Fred came to stay with a mysterious bottle. One night out came the bottle and my Grandma told the story of how one Christmas she had got my Dad completely drunk as a skunk on sloe gin. I was informed my dad’s words were:

 “F*cking Nora what is this stuff?”

At this point I explained that I did not know what the hell they were talking about (much to my mums disgrace); so out came the shot glasses and here started a near on obsession. Every Christmas until they got too old to, I received a big bottle of sloe gin from Mim and Fred which I would eeck out to last me a whole year.

Now the responsibility has been handed down to me. What bliss I have in gathering and preparing sloe gin from a recipe I scrounged from my Grandmas book of cooking spells (when I say book I mean this in the loosest possible way; It is in fact 100’s of old birthday /Christmas cards re used by scrawling on recipes and bound by a few perishing elastic band).Sloe gin is not just a wonderful way to get drunk! It is also a connection to my grandma’s family. A reason to talk to Mim about things she is interested in and not just how the hospital went or what’s on TV.

Now it’s not quite time to be picking the old berries (in theory) one should wait till October. I’m slightly sceptical about this as the plumb and damson season was very early this year and as they are of the same family I think they may be ready.

I would defiantly recommend making sloe gin and if you can’t find sloe’s try any old fruit I often do Bramley apple gin (really nice in cocktails) red current vodka is also dead nice using the same method.

So the Ashcroft family recipe is:

1lb of fruit (if sloes or berries put in the freezer to perforate)
1lb of sugar
70cl bottle of gin (you may not use all the gin as the sloe’s and the sugar displace some of the gin)
Put in a bottle or kilner jar and up turn or mix the bottle a few times over the next few weeks until the sugar dissolves. Leave for about 3 months and drink. However the longer you leave it the dryer it becomes. I have managed to keep half a bottle for 2 years and I’ve just tried some it’s beautifully dry!!! My friend’s father in law kept some for 3 years and bought it out when she had her first baby it was exquisitely dry giving it a whole different character.

So go out and hunt and gather, or just pop to the super market and buy some bog standard version, but I promise you wont get as happily drunk and you defiantly wont say “F*cking Nora” if you haven’t picked them sloes your self!.

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