October often conjures up images of plush green turning to brown and the leaves falling to make way for the Winter months.
Sunrise is shrouded in mist, there’s a nip in the air that suggests nothing will survive the cold that’s in store. This is just not true though. There is one rather sumptuous, cobalt blue fruit plumping up nicely around this time of year and that is the magic of the sloe berry.
With it’s jewel like features and inextricable links to our favourite juniper-based tipple, it’s time to welcome the sharp and sour blackthorn back into our lives but more importantly, into our hearts. It’s sloe gin making time and we are chuffed to bits and tiny pieces.
Stage one of your mission, should you choose to accept it, will be the procurement of the mystical sloe berry. There’s a decision to be made here; does one don their Hunter wellies with their Barbour jacket and venture into the woods or does one prefer to simply pop on some cashmere and wander the aisles of Waitrose? The choice is yours.
Once located, you must ascertain whether they possess the qualities to make a delicious sloe gin by gently pressing one between finger and thumb, if they easily burst, they are in their prime and we shall continue to the next stage.
With a minimum of two months to fully develop, if we want to be enjoying a sloe gin aperitif on Christmas Day, we must get a wiggle on.
Place all your berries into the freezer overnight, this tricks them into thinking they are experiencing their first frost and their skin will rupture which releases all the juicy flavour we need. The sourness will fade away revealing a sweetness they lacked previously.
Then you need a robust vessel in which to mature the mixture. Please, for the love of all that is Autumnal, pick a decent gin to pair the berries with. A cheap gin will make an even worse sloe gin, trust us on this one.
Half the bottle should consist of berries, the other half gin. Add to this a couple of heaped tablespoons of caster sugar and then shake to mix. Lay on its side, out of direct sunlight, and alternate the side it’s laying on every two days from now until Chrimbo.
Make as many of these as you can possibly store because what is so charming about sloe gin is that anything you don’t drink this year will taste even better next year and better still the year after that. Who are we trying to fool though? It’s highly doubtful you’ll have any leftover and if you do, I’ll eat my tweed trilby hat.
And so, we shall bid you adieu,
Mr Hobbs Gin