Now I’m not sure if it’s just because I’ve never been much of a drinker, or if it’s because it’s not very common in Canada, but I had never heard of sloe gin before coming to the UK. Apparently it’s something that lots of people enjoy around Christmas, as sloes usually ripen in October, and it takes a minimum of 2 months to make sloe gin.
Well, we’re doing things a little differently around here! I actually bought Richard 1lb. (454 g) of sloes on eBay for Christmas! He had been looking to make some in time for the holidays, but couldn’t get any for a reasonable price in the markets. I can’t tell you how fun it was to see him open it on Christmas morning (along with the swing top bottles), as he had been so confused up until that point. He didn’t understand why his present was living in the freezer…
Making the sloe gin is quite simple, and really only takes time. The sloes are meant to be picked after the first frost, to split their tough skins; as our sloes were frozen since they were picked, their skins had already split, but we pricked them with a toothpick anyways. Simply fill your sterilized bottles with the sloes, as well as a couple spoons of sugar, and fill to the top with gin. Shake up the bottle and store someplace away from direct sunlight for at least two months; turning it every day for a week, and then every week for at least 2 months.
Now, 454 g of sloes is the right amount to make 1 litre of gin. According to a recipe we found online, the amount of sugar required for 1 litre of gin is 225 grams. We had four 250 ml bottles, which meant we put about 113 g of sloes, and 56 g of sugar in each bottle, and topped it up with the gin.
Or at least that is what my initial calculation was… see the problem? As the bottles only hold 250 ml, the amount of liquid we could add was less than that because of the volume taken up by the sloes, meaning our bottles held more sloes and sugar to the ratio of gin than we originally thought. However, as we decided that 225 g seemed a bit high, we only added 30-35 g of sugar to our bottles, deciding that we could make a simple syrup and add more later if desired (phew!). As this is all an experiment, adjusting the sugar amount in each bottle we test, we even made one bottle using some vanilla sugar I had made a few months ago (by blitzing a dried vanilla bean with sugar). However if it works out, Richard may be driven nuts trying to recreate it – I have no clue what my ratio of bean to sugar was!
Now, most people make this in the fall, during sloe season, but if you can get your hands on some now, it’s an even better time to make it! The flavor gets stronger with time, so while 2 months is enough to get a decent flavour, 6 months or a year is even better! We’ll open our bottles one at a time, letting the rest get stronger as we go, and we’ll see just how good they get!