Sloe Gin, Step 2: Prepare the Infusion   6 comments

Thorn from one of the Blackthorn bushes yesterday


Traditionally, you should pick sloes right after the first hard frost but that occurs so late most years as to make it impractical.  The idea is that the berries will have time to get a little sweeter and the freeze will fracture the tough skins making the inner pulp and pits accessible to the liquor.

Several alternatives exist.  You can pierce the skins with “a sliver pin” (wtf?) or, as I choose to do, one of the thorns of the bush from which you harvest the fruit.  I also put the fruit in the freezer for a day or two as an additional freeze/fracture step but you could just do one or the other.  If you leave them in the freezer for a week or two, some of the moisture will sublimate and that isn’t entirely a bad result, either.


Proportions in recipes vary wildly and are usually measured as mass of fruit and sugar to volume of gin.  I tend to put the fruit in a measuring cup and then pierce and put them into a bottle that will hold about 3 times that volume.  I just used a 1 liter club soda bottle for this small batch, but you can get fancy ones made just for this (at one of those, “I Saw You Coming” type stores).  I’ll put it in something nice at the end but this is sterile and sufficient for my purposes.

Next, you need to add sugar to assist the extraction of tannins, juices, and colour from the fruit.  I treat this as a strong liqueur and so put in half as much sugar by volume as the fruit.  This time I had some light brown sugar but you could use honey or Karo syrup (sort of light treacle, Brits) if you want.  The sugar also acts as a minimum timing device since it doesn’t immediately dissolve.

Finally, add gin at twice the volume of the fruit.  Use the cheapest gin you can find not least because you are doing insult to fine gin if you use it…sort of like putting Bombay gin into tonic rather than just pouring it over one or two small ice chips in a chilled Martini glass: if you don’t have any more dignity than that, yourself, at least show some respect to the beverage.  Plus, I was assured by the Englishwoman who first set us on this path that cheap gin works better, in the end, but I don’t remember the reasoning behind that.

Finally, put the bottle someplace dark and rotate it every day or two.  Ours is in front of the wine rack so we are certain to see it at least once per day.  This will probably be ready for Christmas (2 months) but you can let it infuse for a year (and if you only use a tablespoon of sugar, should do).

See also:

Step 0: Find Blackthorn

Step 1: Gather the Fruit


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