Last year I collected sloes from blackthorn bushes across the reserve. I did however make sure to leave enough for our winter birds to feast upon. Sloe gin is a drink that gets better over time and eventually begins to take on the taste of a fine Madeira wine.
The best time to collect sloes is after the first hard frosts. We had those a couple of weeks ago so now is the opportune moment to grab a bag and head out to your local hedgerow or woodland. Blackthorn bushes, as the name suggests are covered in thorns; big spiky painful thorns. It’s always useful to wear long sleeves and gloves or run the gauntlet like me; a veteran country lass, who thinks she can get away without and comes home scratched up to her elbows.
Once you have braved the blackthorn bush and collected your 500g of sloes you will need to prick them with a fork (or freeze and defrost them). Put them in a suitably sized jar (or more if you only have small ones), pour over a 250g of sugar (if you like it sweeter then add more!) and 1ltr of gin, put the lid on and shake. You will need to shake the jar/s every day until the sugar has all dissolved. Then store in a dark cupboard and after approximately 3 months you can strain the sloes through muslin cloth. After all of that you will need patience; the longer you wait the better your sloe gin will be. Hedgerow recipes like these are just guidelines so feel free to experiment!
Laura Whitfield – Falls of Clyde Ranger