The leaves are crisping up and there’s a chill in the air, which can only mean one thing – it’s time to forage for sloes and start to prepare your Christmas liquor. These vibrant purple berries, at their ripest in the autumn months, are probably best known as the prime ingredient of sloe gin. What’s more, they can be found incredibly easily, provided that you know where to look!
With this in mind, follow our foraging guide and you will be enjoying your homemade sloe gin in time for Christmas Day.
Where To Find
Sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bush, a strong and thorny bush that is commonly found as hedgerows in wooded areas. The berries will be similar in appearance to blueberries, but are slightly larger.
Blackthorn bushes have a tendency to be strong, thorny and harsh on bare hands, so ensure that you bring a pair of gloves before seeking these berries. A pair of shears may also be useful to cut through particularly stubborn branches, and a basket or container will be required to store your berries.
In order to identify if sloes are ripe, simply check if they pop between your finger and thumb. Once you have identified some ripe sloes, simply prise them off the branch whilst wearing your gloves and stow in a basket or container.
How To Prepare
Sloes can only be eaten once cooked, but they are more commonly enjoyed in sloe gin. Place a bottle of gin into a 1 litre Kilner jar, add 150 grams of sugar, and fill with sloes that have been pierced with a fork. Sloe gin is best enjoyed at Christmas, and sloe gin requires at least two months to mature, so leave the mixture to infuse until Christmas, then decant and enjoy!
Top Tip – After decanting, reuse the sloes to make sloe sherry, which does not require sugar syrup. Just pour enough sherry to cover the gin-soaked sloes and allow to rest in a dark cupboard. Finally, decant again at Easter and use the leftover berries to create a delicious cooking sauce.
Sloes may be commonly known for their liquor-flavouring properties but they are also good for your health. Nutritionally, they include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium, but it is important to note that sloes cannot be eaten unless cooked.