sloe gin

autumn leaves on horse chestnut treehawthorn berries

On glorious autumn days like this, when the last leaves cling to the horse chestnut branches and hawthorn berries paint a red scar across a blue sky, it’s been a joy to go sloe picking. As we watch the London bound train pass by on the other side of the river, we’re very glad that we aren’t one of the commuters packed into the carriages. Of course, when the water trickles down our sleeves or the fruit is frosted, making our fingers numb with cold, we’re rather envious of the passengers sitting warm and dry on the train.

This year, there’s been a gang of five picking sloes. We lean precariously over ditches, are raised skywards in the cherry picker to the topmost branches or sit on a box picking berries from branches that have been lopped off.

sloes growing on blackthorn hedge

Sloes are a primitive plum that grow on blackthorn. As the fruit ripens, the skin turns a beautiful dusky blue then deepens to purple and then to shiny black. The sloes look sweet and juicy but pop one into your mouth and it’s so sharp and astringent that it dries out your mouth. With its unpalatable fruit and long sharp thorns, the blackthorn is far from welcoming, but in spring its pretty white flowers are the first to burst open, forming a white ribbon along the dark, leafless hedgerow.

making sloe gin

The best (only?) thing to do with sloes is to steep them in gin to make Sloe Gin; a drink that’s perfect for a cold winter’s evening, when the day’s work is done and the fire is lit and the curtains drawn against the dark.

Christmas cake

I also soak dried fruit in Sloe Gin for my Christmas cake. Based on the same idea as the Rum Soaked Fruit that I use in fruit cakes throughout the year, I add some hot sugar syrup to the dried fruit with some sloe gin and over the next week top up with Sloe Gin as the liquid is absorbed. I always forget to feed my Christmas cake once I’ve put it away in the tin, so this method ensures we don’t have a dry cake.

Slamseys Sloe Gin

If you don’t want to pick your own sloes and get your hands scratched and torn or if you simply don’t have the patience to make your own, then luckily I know a place you can buy some very good Sloe Gin  …

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30 thoughts on “sloe gin

  1. Mrs Thomasina Tittlemouse says:

    Fabulous stuff, sloe gin! Happy picking and steeping! I too use it in making and feeding my Christmas cake. Still haven’t made this yet though. Must get onto it. I am going to try your hot sugar syrup method. Your beautiful recipe drawings are just wonderful. I love them! E x


    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      It was your suggestion to use sloe gin in summer pudding that got me thinking of different ways to use it. Sometimes I jazz up my Dundee cake recipe by replacing the whisky with sloe gin and adding cocoa and chunks of chocolate to make a Chocolate Fruit Cake.


  2. Gather and Graze says:

    I also love your artwork Anne – so very clever! I came close to buying some sloe gin the other day (the only one in stock… it was ‘Plymouth Traditional Sloe Gin’) selling for $65 a bottle! I guess you need to make sure it’s something you’ll really enjoy for that price… Do you know at all what that one is like? Cheers, Margot 🙂


  3. Jane says:

    Yes I always love your hand-drawn recipes too Anne! I sometimes wonder how anyone originally came up with ideas like Sloe Gin for seemingly inedible fruit.


  4. Pat Machin says:

    Sloe gin always looks so good with that lovely rich colour! We lost a whole row of blackthorn a couple of years ago when some new housing was built. The authorities do insist that native trees are planted to replace them but I guess they don’t like the idea of sharp thorns (might get sued) so we are knee deep in Rowan and Birch nowadays.


  5. Jan says:

    Hello Anne, yes, I care about what you’ve been doing! For me it’s a wonderful view into England, a farm in Essex and the cycle of your seasons and life. I find your blog interesting and, in my humble opinion, intelligent. I agree with you….I don’t enjoy the blogs where ‘stuff’ is promoted and sung about, one has a gut instinct about what’s genuine and what’s not. I enjoy your photos, sense of humour and cooking, but I can quite understand how you can become jaded. Thank you for all the quiet enjoyment you give. God bless muddy boots – I’m sure she prefers those to fancy high heels!


  6. frayed at the edge says:

    We had no sloes again this year – I had to resort to buying some on ebay! When you take the sloes out of the gin, try putting them in port – another delicious drink (and sloe vodka is good too!)


  7. andreamynard says:

    Lovely post and I do like the idea (from your fab drawing) of adding vanilla pods to the sloe gin. Mine is sitting in a kilner jar, unfortunately I have a feeling I won’t be able to leave it for long enough, always succumb to drinking it too early. Well, those dark winter evenings…


    • Anne @ Life in Mud Spattered Boots says:

      Always a temptation to drink it too early …
      A friend uses vanilla pods and no sugar as he says the vanilla sweetens it enough. Though I don’t use anything like the equal sugar and sloes ratio that some receipes advise, I still need some sugar even with the vanilla.


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