Saturday, September 23, 2006

How To Make Sloe Gin

Pay attention now children:

Step 1: First find your sloes.

These are the fruit of the blackthorn tree – a thorny shrub, Prunus spinosa. This has white flowers in the spring. The tree produces a dark blue fruit, a bit like a small, round plum or damson., the sloe by late summer or early autumn. These bushes are widespred throughout the English countryside but less commonly found in Scotland. I have three bushes on the Union Canal near my home which produce their fruit in late September (but has produced earlier this year) Traditionally I pick mine on or about Michaelmas (29th September, you heathens) and offer a prayer to the Archangel for protection through the year.

Step 2: Pick your fruit
My bushes are quite tall so it’s helpful to have a stick to hand to pull branches down to picking level. Having a helpful wife and children is also useful.

Step 3: Sort your fruit

Back home, make the sign of the cross before you start this task. Believe me, it helps. Discard any which have broken skin or are obviouly rotten (squidgy rather than solid to the touch). Minor roughness on the skin alone does not mwarrant discarding.Wash the fruit and place of a flat surface (a baking tray is good). Now the labourious part – each sloe must be pricked with a fork of sharp knife once or twice.

Step 4:Weigh your fruit.
Fill your sealable jars about a quarter to a third full with fruit.Take them out again and weigh them then return them to the jar with an equivalent weight of caster sugar.

Step 5: GIN

Now fill the jar to the brim with gin. It doesn’t need to be expensive (Sainbury’s London Dry Gin will do fine). Gordon’s or Plymouth is OK but there is no particular benefit in using a more expensive gin. DON’T use aromatic gins like Bombay Sapphire as the flavour will interfere with the purpose of the exercise which is to infuse the relatively neutral taste of the gin with the flavour of the sloes.Over the next day or so agitate the jars gently to get an even distribution of sugar throughout the jar so it dissolves.

Step 6: Leave it!

When the sugar is all dissolved, seal the jars and leave for three months. Over the next three months pray to the major saints of the period: The Archangels, St Jerome, St Therese, Our Lady of the Rosary, St Bruno(Carthusians are not averse to strong drink – cf Fr Tim), The Guardian Angels, St Margaret Mary (connection with the blackthorn and the crown of thorns), St Luke (this IS medicinal), All Saints, All Souls, St Martin de Porres, St Albertus Magnus (a great botanist), St Andrew and St Margaret St Nicholas, St Mary Immaculate, St John of the Cross. Conveniently this means the gin will be ready for Christmas Day.

Step 7: Drink it
This makes the perfect apperatif for Christmas Day. Fill a glass about a sixth full with sloe gin. Add ice and fill to the brim with Indian tonic. Some people like lemon with sloe gin, but I feel it disguises the flavour and sloe gin is ALL about the flavour. Offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Incarnate Word.

A toast: Her Majesty the Queen and His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.


This year I’ve also made 0.5L of sloe vodka for the father of one of my goddaughters (who is the godfather of Paulinus Minor Minor). Gin makes him maudlin.

NB for Muslim readers: Sloe Gin is HARAM, but then you could always convert to Catholicism


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