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Sloe Gin?


kvltrede
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another worthy sloe gin cocktail from the Savoy:

The Savoy Tango.

half gin, half applejack (used Laird's Bonded).  playing with this last night at Pegu.

Totally. I've been making this one at home, as noted above.

I've also been thinking that a touch of citrus wouldn't go amiss. Kind of like a "Jack Sloe."

--

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I understand that sloes are found as part of the large hedgerows that separate fields and lanes in the UK.  Maybe in the northeast there are some small patches of fields that use this method of separation.  I'm thinking the Great Pasture on RT 95  North, Essex county MA, which I believe is part of Newbury.  They still have stone walls and lots of hedges marking the old plots, maybe that is a good place to start.

If they have any roads or streets nearby with "blackthorn" in the name then more than likely has or had sloe berries growning there. The blackthorn bush is very invasive and often cut way back or removed in developed areas.

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  • 4 weeks later...

The August 22 entry from the Orwell diaries site (http://orwelldiaries.wordpress.com/) references a newspaper cutting on making sloe gin...

August 22, 1938

22 August, 2008 by orwelldiaries

Warmish day, with showers. Nights are getting colder & more like autumn. A few oaks beginning to yellow very slightly. [...]

[NEWSPAPER CUTTING]

Sloe Gin

The origin of this recipe is buried deep in the traditional lore of the New Forest gypsies. A friend of Lady Muriel wrote it down in the gipsy’s own words. Her people were friends with Romany folk, and a bottle of the liquer was always brought at Christmas as a gift to her mother. The gypsies expected no payment for it, and in addition used to sing some ancient songs which they called carols, but seemed to have no Christian significance.

“Pick your sloes when they be fine and ripe, with dry air, and warm with the sun. Prick each one with a needle three times. Take half a bottle of unsweetened gin and put in a fistful of sugar-candy, firm and strong, the taste of a crushed bitter almond, or the kernels of ripe apricots, crushed. Fill the bottle with the sloes and press them down.

“If you be not on the road, lay beneath the floor of your tent where you be sleeping, for they slags (sloes) dunnot like the cold. Let ‘em bide till Christmas come, when take out the fruit and let ‘em bide till you need ‘em.”

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  • 1 year later...

I just came across this thread during a search.

According to Dept of Agriculture, there are patches of blackthorn in the NE where is has become naturalized. According to legend there are some thickets of blackthorn here in the Willamette Valley of Western Oregon - I haven't figured out where just yet.

While I'm looking for the naturalize patches around here I'm working on growing my own. I acquires eight rooted suckers this weekend and I've got them potted up and I'll plant them on my property once they're going well.

Hopefully in the not too distant future I'll be picking my own.

Unfortunately the fruit from the bush I got the suckers from is spoken for.

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No commercial sloe gin I’ve ever tasted compares with homemade, If I’m lucky and get home to Wales in the sloe season I tend to make a demijohn of the stuff. If I don’t make it then mum always has a bottle for me for Christmas, thanks mum.

There has been talk of what gin to use, just use the cheapest, the taste of the sloes along with the sugar will remove the finer points of a gin, so as long it's not paint stripper...... A supermarket branded gin is perfect for sloe gin, and don’t substitute vodka it’s not the same.

Tip: If you’ve made a demijohn of sloe gin and prick the sloes with a pin – it’s a chore. So cheat and put the sloes in the freezer for 24 hours spread out on sheets NOT in a bag - then defrost. The freezing makes small splits in the skin that the same as pricking.

Tip: Reuse the sloes. After you’ve either strained into a new bottle or finished it, use the old sloes to make a second batch. Use just add 1/2 the quantity of gin etc to the old sloes, this generally makes a nice sloe gin ready 4 to 6 months later, when you've run out of the original stuff.

Tip: What do you do with the sloes when exhausted. It’s a labor of love, as the pulp to stone ratio is low in a sloe. But remove de-stone the sloes and collect the pulp. Then make an apple pie using 1/3rd sloe pulp to 2/3rd apples this tastes, very good. WARNING: Do not try this with fresh sloes. If you don't understand this then bite a fresh sloe, something everyone must do once.

Edited by ermintrude (log)

Time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana.

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  • 8 months later...

Hi all,

just wanted to add a little to this thread as it is one of my favourite topics.

Most of the commercial producers do not steep with berries. Instead, they use a syrup made from sloes and sugar which is then mixed with their proprietary gin. To reduce costs (and because it is not necessary to the flavour) many also reduce or remove the botanicals in the gin itself. This produces something akin to sloe gin but it is far sweeter than the real thing and pretty much only useful for adding to a screwdriver to make a sloe screw.

I have never found the Plymouth sloe gin here but I am glad to see that a mass producer is at least attempting to make the real deal.

There are only two ways to get the real thing.

The first is to make it yourself. This starts in May by identifying your blackthorns. These are easily spotted at this time of year by the flowers:

blackthorn blossom.jpg

The berries themselves are harvested between September and November. Pictured below, look for the leaves and the thorns to ensure you're picking sloes and not wild cherries.

blackthorn-sloes.jpg

These are the wild cherries:

cherries1.jpg

The bush has a broader leaf, no thorns and the fruit themselves grow on stalks rather than directly from the branch.

As for steeping the berries, a rough rule of thumb is 8oz of sloes to 4 oz of sugar and 1 pint of gin. It's been said before that you do not need to go for a 'good' gin. You do want a 40% spirit if possible as the alcohol is the medium to carry the flavour but there is no need to use something with lots of juniper and other botanicals as these flavours will be masked anyway. Dutch jenevar is a wonderful base spirit but if using this go for the jonge jenevar.

There is something of a myth as to when to pick the fruit. It's said that you should wait until after the first frost. There are two reasons for this:

1) you will ensure that the fruit has developed as much sugar as possible; and

2) the frost tends to split the skin of the fruit.

So long as your fruits are ripe you can pick from September. Obviously, the timing will depend on the summer weather. If you do pick early, then you will want to break the skins. Traditionally, you use either silver or a thorn from the same bush the fruit was picked from. The fact is that metals can react with the fruit and result in a metalic taste in the end product. The simplest way to break the skins and cell structure down is (as has been said above) to freeze overnight and add the gin directly to the frozen berries.

Steeping draws flavour from the skins and stones as well as the flesh of the fruit. After you have steeped for 3 months, taste the liquer and add more sugar if required. As with all things, remember it's far easier to add than to take away, so take your time over this. The stones give a flavour similar to almond and vanilla. If these are not coming through, you can add a drop of vanilla essence per pint or a few blanched almond flakes.

The second way to get good sloe gin is from myself (when we finally get full production up and running in a few years time) or in the meantime from the only other good producer is know, sloemotion - www.sloemotion.com

Hope you found this informative or at least interesting.

Edited by JimmyD (log)
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Very well. It may sound like a shortcut, but the results are amazingly complex. All the notes from the stones as well as the sour flesh come through, and the technique offers greater control over both the sweetness and tannin levels of the finished product. In a side-by-side test with classic 5-month steeped sloe gin, a quick-made batch actually seemed brighter, more sour (and less bitter) and generally more rounded.

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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Digijam, can you outline how you did it in a little more detail? Did you split the sloes at all, or just put them in whole? It seems to me the limiting factor on doing sloe gin with nitrogen cavitation would be volume.

Edited by mkayahara (log)

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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There's a link to the full recipe on the post above, or here. No splitting necessary - though it's no problem if you want to use frozen (and therefore slightly split) sloes. Volume is obviously limited by the size of your cream whipper, but given that you only need to keep them in there for a few minutes it's really no hassle to do two or more batches, as dictated by your supply of sloes and gin.

restaurant, private catering, consultancy
feast for the senses / blog

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Sorry, I should have checked that link before posting! I had assumed it was just a link explaining nitrogen cavitation in general. I assume that's a 1-litre whipper you're using? Sounds like it would be a useful technique; sadly, the limiting factor for me is the total unavailability of sloes here. I may try it next year with damsons, though, if I remember to do so when they're in season.

Matthew Kayahara

Kayahara.ca

@mtkayahara

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We need a biochemist to discuss this one and that's certainly no me.

I do know that in wine the levels of polyphenols give the astringent and bitter parts of the taste. These molecules bind with proteins. When you taste the drink, they bind with the proteins in saliva. In short, they give the body and feel to the drink. The sharpness to a young wine high in tannins and the more mellow feel to an older wine.

With a 6 month old sloe gin there is certainly still a degree of astraingency but it is by no means unpleasant and creates the familiar sweet/sour notes. A 6 month bottled gin that has aged to 3 years certainly feels more mellow in the mouth as well as having a rounded and more complex taste with few(er) bitter afternotes.

I am unsure as to the reduction of tannins at the start point of the steeping process, but would love to hear from anyone who has either a practical or theoretical take on this.

As an aside, I still have a small number of sloes that have been frozen since late October .. give me 4 months or so and I can probably give some answer myself.

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