Sloe news: blackthorn fruit
Since the first flowering of blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) in Spring the Autumn can now boast a few handfuls of sloes – the fruit of the blackthorn.
Blackthorn is a deciduous shrub/tree growing to about 5m in height. Its very dark, almost black bark, and the profusion of large, stiff thorns give it its name.
Sloe news: not many available
A couple of days ago, I wandered along some of the hedgerows along the banks of the River Breamish close to Low Hedgeley but there were very few sloes to be found. Many of the shrubs I saw seemed to have succumbed to fungal disease (which can cause blossom wilt and, consequently, little or no fruit production). All-in-all, I only managed to harvest about 750g of sloes.
My 750g of harvested sloes
Sloes are rather tart and tradition has it that you ought to pick them after the first frost in order to make them more palatable. However, placing them in the freezer for a few days does the same job. Sloes can be used in preserves (jams and jellies) and, of course, to make sloe gin.
Sloe news: how to make sloe gin
- 70cl gin
- 315g sloes
- 156g sugar
- If you can be bothered, prick the skin of the sloes all over with a needle – this helps the juices to escape the hard, almost leathery skin. However, you will still get a good-flavoured gin if you omit this step. Whatever you do, you must then place the sloes in a large sterilised Kilner jar or similar.
- Add the sugar and the gin.
- Seal the jar and shake well.
- Store in a cool, dark place and shake the jar every day for one week.
- Leave to stand for two months, shaking the jar once a week.
- Sieve the gin through a sterilised muslin cloth into a sterilised bottle.