Making Sloe Gin with Dried Sloes
A few years ago I wrote about How to Make Your Own Sloe Gin. We are often asked about Making Sloe Gin with Dried Sloes in place of fresh ones, and this is how you do that.
When it's the wrong time of year for Fresh Sloes
These jewel-like berries are usually found in UK hedgerows between September and November every year, though we have found some later than that and even into the following year.
We've talked before how the taste of Sloe Gin improves dramatically over time. Dried Sloes are ideal if you want to get a head start making your Christmas presents, for example. Or for some other special date, and you don't have any fresh sloes.
When you don't have Sloes in the Freezer
You can pick and use Sloes right away, or you can freeze them. You may recall in my original Sloe Gin Recipe we talked about freezing them to replicate the first frost, but you could just leave them in your freezer so you can make them at any time of year.
However much as I love sloe gin, I'm not inclined to take up precious freezer space with sloes for too long. Dried are a great alternative when you don't have fresh sloes.
When your favourite Sloe Bushes Disappear
I mentioned in my original Sloe Gin Recipe about having sloes in the hedgerow in our allotment, and sadly I spoke too soon. A couple of years after I wrote that, that hedgerow was cut back and a housing estate was built... no more sloes opposite our allotment. Which is very sad indeed. Fortunately we know where to find others. If your source of sloes disappears and you can't find more in your area, you can use dried sloes instead.
When you're not confident about identifying Sloes in the Hedgerow
We've talked before about how to identify sloes. Prunus spinosa are the fruit of the blackthorn bush, not to be confused with damsons and bullaces which are slightly larger (though they make good gin too). Large thorns on the bush are an indicator that you have sloes rather than other forms of wild plum, and the berries have a stone in the middle.
Blackthorn bushes were used in days gone by to mark boundaries, and there are a lot of them around the UK despite sometimes being cut down to build housing estates as in our case. However if you're not confident about picking yours fresh, using dried sloes to make sloe gin solves that problem.
Do I need to Sterilise the Jar and Bottles for Sloe Gin?
Many people say sterilising jars and bottles for Sloe Gin isn't necessary because of the alcohol content of the gin. That level of alcohol pretty much kills anything. In fact I think a long time ago I use to make Sloe Gin without sterilising. However these days I do sterilise my jars and bottles for this, only because we do a lot of homebrewing so I always have VWP or similar around. If something goes wrong that's an expensive mistake, and it only takes a few minutes, hence I do it. It is entirely your choice whether you sterilise, or whether you just make sure your jars and (later) bottles are scrupulously clean.
Does Sloe Gin made with Dried Sloes Taste the Same as with Fresh Sloes?
Having made them both, I can honestly say I cannot tell the difference between Sloe gin made with fresh sloes and Sloe Gin made with dried sloes.
Making Sloe Gin with Dried Sloes - Recipe
300ml Warm Water
250g Granulated Sugar
70cl Bottle of Gin
plus you'll need:
A sieve for rinsing your sloes
A bowl in which to rehydrate your sloes
A large, wide-necked jar, very clean or sterilised jar. I usually use Clip Top Jars. On the day I made this batch I didn't have one free, so I used a pickled onion jar from my local fish and chip shop instead.
Then (much) later when the Gin is ready to bottle you'll need:
Bottles, either sterilised or scrupulously clean as above. I like these clip top bottles.
Your sieve lined with butter muslin
A large jug which the sieve fits over
1. Give the dried sloes a thorough rinse multiple times, until the water runs clear.
2. Put the washed sloes in a bowl and pour over the warm water.
3. Cover and leave the sloes to rehydrate overnight. I stir them a couple of times to try to ensure the berries on top get rehydrated too.
4. Around 24 hours later, put the berries with the liquid into the jar.
5. Add the sugar.
6. Pour the gin over everything and give it a good mix by swirling the jar.
7. Keep the jar out of sunlight for a week or so, giving it a swirl every day to ensure the sugar is completely dissolved.
8. Put the jar away somewhere out of the light and leave it for at least 3 months, ideally more like 6 months, and leave the Sloe Gin Magic to happen.
9. When your Sloe Gin tastes ready, strain it through butter muslin and a sieve and bottle in very clean/sterile bottles.
Whilst reconstituted berries do not hold their shape in the jar over time as well as fresh berries, the gin-soaked fruit still works very well to make Sloe Port.
Sloe Gin made all year round. What could be better?
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