A few weeks ago I shared my recipe for using apples and blackberries to create a flavoured vodka and this got me thinking about creating other types of fruit flavoured alcohol using my hedgerow finds. The first and most obvious choice was to make sloe gin and after a rummage through the hedgerows nearby, hubby and I also found plenty of damsons, which lend themselves well to being combined with brandy. So we popped to the shops to stock up on supermarket-own-brand basic gin and brandy and a couple of packs of sugar – here’s how we got on.
The first step for creating both of these flavoured drinks is to collect and wash the fruits that you want to use. The sloe gin tradition is to pick sloes after the first frost so that they have burst open and will release more of their flavours into the gin. But you don’t have to wait for the first frost – simply pick them and pop them in the freezer after washing. They will pop open in the same way and you can add them straight to the gin without defrosting. If they haven’t burst by themselves, give them a helping hand to release their flavours by pricking the frozen berries with a cocktail stick before adding to the jar. The freezing/pricking can be done for any other soft fruits you’re using the flavour the alcohol so we prepared our damsons in the same way.
Next, add 400g of fruit to a large sterilized jar and tip in 200g of caster sugar before pouring in the gin or brandy you want to infuse with fruity flavour. Seal the jar tightly and shake well to help the sugar to dissolve. Store in a cool, dark place and shake every other day for a week. Then shake once a week for a months or two. We just give our jars a quick turn everytime we remember to do so! It’s fun to watch the liquid slowly turn more purpley in funky ombre-style, and it’s even more fun to shake it up and muddle it all together. When you’re ready to bottle up the fruity booze, strain out the fruit and pour into sterilized bottles – it’s a good idea to keep hold of the bottles you emptied into the jars, plus you’ll need a couple more bottles as the volume of liquid will have increased. Our brandy has definitely been improved by the damsons – it’s more of a bright red, medicine-like syrup now – imagine the medicine that Mary Poppins pours out for the children and you’ve got it! The sloes gin is a purpley-red colour at the moment but you can leave them in the gin for longer and they will turn the liquid a more golden colour, which is a tawny sloe gin.
Let me know if you give this a go, and maybe you can bottle it up in smaller bottles as gifts for your friends and family this Christmas?! Although these festive drinks may taste like heaven and as if they are non-alcoholic, it most definitely IS boozy so please drink responsibly, because I don’t want any of you lovely folk getting into trouble over the festive period!
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