GARDEN NOTES: The Indian Summer and Making Sloe Gin

Okay, I know what I said earlier (see Sept 29th post), but come on, joke’s over now. It’s November, the Christmas lights have been turned on in the streets, and yet I’m still walking around in a T-shirt. This is the time of year when good old Mother Nature usually manages to water the garden all by herself, and yet in the last seven weeks we’ve only had about two days of proper rain. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the North East coast of the US has been battered by unseasonal snowstorms! In the past two months, the Met Office has announced three times that our Indian summer was coming to an end. I guess they are bound to be right . . . eventually.

Still, taking advantage of the warmer weather, Common Ground organized some sloe gin workshops on Sunday and Wednesday. I provided the sloe berries, having found some in a meadow a few weeks back which I then kept in the freezer. Mind you, I did ask those taking part to bring their own gin (or vodka if they preferred), seen as they get to take it home with them.

 Traditionally, sloes are picked at the end of October or beginning of November, right after the first frost, when the sloes are ripe and their skins have been broken by the frost. The trouble is if you wait that long then there are often no sloes left to use, having all been picked by other sloe gin aficionados or eaten by the birds. Furthermore, based on the Indian summer we’ve been experiencing, waiting for the first frost would be unwise, as the remaining (less reachable) sloes I recently spotted have already started rotting.

Four of our CG 'sloe gin-ers', showing off their results.

The basic formula for making sloe gin is to half-fill a bottle with sloes, add half their weight in sugar, fill the rest with gin, give it a good few shakes to help the sugar dissolve, and then leave the bottle for two, preferably three months, gently shaking it at least once a week, allowing the sloes to infuse into the spirit. In as little as a day the gin begins to turn pink, getting darker as the weeks go by. Usually the sloes need to be pricked to speed up the infusion, but as we were using frozen sloes, reproducing the effects of frost, we didn’t bother pricking them. There are many variations on the technique of making sloe gin, so it’s worth investigating and experimenting, finding what works for you. Meanwhile, we’ll find out in about two or three months whether our members liked their own self-made sloe gin. If they nail me to the shed then I’ll take that as a no.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: ON A FORAGING TRIP « Common Ground Community Garden

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