30 Sep 2015

Picking Sloe Berries | Foraging

Along with blackberry picking, each autumn we try and pick sloe berries to make delicious bottles of sloe gin ready for the winter months and shorter days where a pick-me-up can sometimes be necessary.

Sloe or blackthorn are the oldest and most tart member of the plum family, so are well suited to being used in gin. They can however be used in jams and other sweet treats, but for most are too tart to eat alone (unless you're my grandmother who took two out of the basket and ate them there and then...).

The aptly named blackthorn bush on which the blackish-blue berries grow, can grow four to six metres high and contains long, very sharp thorns.  When picking sloes, make sure to wear long thick sleeves and trousers or be prepared to get scratched and impaled!

The saying is that the best time to pick sloes is after the first frost, however if they aren't quite ready when you find them, you can speed the ripening along by popping them in the freezer.  I picked these only a couple of days ago, so if you know of a spot to forage for sloes, you should pick them as soon as possible, as they fall quickly once ripe and are rather enjoyed by birds.

As it only takes a couple of months to get a lovely flavour and due to when they're ready to be picked, bottles of sloe gin can be ready in time for Christmas and make lovely, thrifty homemade gifts, one that I gave to family members last year which were greatly received.

Below is the recipe that I use for sloe gin:

Sloe Gin 
(recipe found here)

450g/1lb sloes
225g/8oz caster sugar
1 litre/1¾ pint gin

1.  Pierce each of the berries and place in a large sterilised jar.
2.  Add the sugar and gin, seal tightly and shake well.
3.  Store in a cool dark place and shake every other day for a week, then once a week for at least two months.
4.  Strain the gin into a sterilised bottle.  You can use the gin soaked berries in chocolate bark so you don't necessarily have to waste them!

I'm excited to try out some different blends this year however, maybe throwing some of the blackberries that I picked into the mix or even use some local honey.  I like the idea of experimenting and am excited to see what I can create.


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15 comments

  1. Beautiful photos! I clicked onto this post eagerly this morning as I've got a very similar one sitting in my drafts at the moment! :) Alice xx

    www.woodenwindowsills.co.uk

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    1. Thanks so much :) Would love to see your post x

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  2. Amazing - I'm going to go on a sloe hunt this weekend! Delicious sloe gin will be mine... x

    Sophie Cliff

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    1. Haha! Yesss, it is just so yummy x

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  3. Never heard of these before. Learned something new today, thanks!

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  4. Never thought of picking and making Sloe Gin, I see alot on the bushes nesr me when I am walking the dog.

    http://whispywillowlane.co.uk/whispyblog/

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    1. I'll warn you, picking them can become quite addictive haha! I had to be dragged away x

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  5. Oooh, I love the idea of picking fruit, we've always had blackthorn bushes in our garden at home but I didn't know the berries were edible.

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    1. Yeah don't be a nutcase like my gran and eat them raw though, not pleasant! Gin however, YES please x

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  6. Ive already got my sloe gin brewing in a cupboard, I can't wait until it's ready!
    A little warning to people - don't eat sloe berries straight off the bush, your mouth will feel so dry haha!

    http://francescaandrews.com

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    1. Ahead of me! Need to get cracking. Hahaha yes, they're really not nice unless soaked in gin, I don't really know what possessed my gran! x

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  7. Lovely lovely lovely 😀 Incidently, you can avoid the tedious pricking (and it's always good to avoid a tedious prick I find 😉) when you freeze the sloes overnight as the freezing process breaks down the skin enough to make is permeable to the gin - hurrah!

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  8. Also, save your gin soaked sloes, spread in a dish, pour over melted 70% chocolate, grate over the zest of an orange & sprinkle with cinnamon. Seriously yummy as after dinner treat!

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  9. Wonderful I'm going to enjoy Rye Whiskey Distillery this weekend! Delicious whiskey will be mine. Hope to read your more sloe gin recipes.

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