One Sunday afternoon in mid-September we visited one of our local foraging spots and gathered blackberries for more jam, and bags full of sloes. In the quiet sunny valley a tangle of blackthorn and hawthorn trees form a wild hedge around a sheltered field, grazed by cows. A stand of blackthorn trees that march through the field were covered in lichen which formed amazing shapes – the air here must be very clean?! Edit: According to Sally Nex’s article for the bbc, the lichen types I saw appear to be hypogymnia, and usnea; both of which are indeed indicators for clean air.
The sloes went straight into the freezer until I found time to process them. This has the added benefit of helping to release the flavour, replicating the effects of a hard frost, and many people recommend freezing them prior to making sloe gin if they are picked before the first frosts.
Today I found twenty minutes spare to layer the sloes in a gallon jar with caster sugar. The sloes and sugar just filled the jar past halfway, which was ideal to then top up with the correct proportion of gin.
We used the following ratio:1.5kg Sloes 1kg Caster Sugar 2.2 Litres Gin
We shall rotate the jar every day until the sugar dissolves and the liqueur starts to acquire its purple hue – see the contrast between the freshly dowsed sloes and last year’s bottled batch.