Driving around the countryside the hedgerows are well laden this year it seems. In the past I have recorded estimates of how good a harvest is for a a list of species such as hawthorn, oak, blackberry and so on for the Woodland Trust. Whilst many of these will be feeding wildlife others, such as blackberry and elder produce fruits enjoyed by human and animal alike. I’ve already made a batch of blackberry and apple jelly this year. Whilst picking the blackberries we spotted a good crop of sloes and decided try making sloe gin. Always good to try something new.
Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn, a common hedgerow plant locally. In spring the blossom dresses the hedges as if covered in snow. The time it actually blooms is the subject of several weather sayings. In contrast to the sparkling white blossom the fruits are almost black, resembling small plums and carry a bloom similar to that found on that fruit. Beautiful blossom and useful fruit but the most vicious thorns attacking the unwary.
Whenever I try something new I take photos at every stage. If it’s new to me it is new to others and who knows when the pictures might not come in useful for an article. It worked when I made my first quince jelly a few years back anyway. So far the fruit has been washed and dried, pricked all over and placed in a sterile jar. Sugar has been added and then the gin. Sadly it will be a while before the product can be tested. The recipe suggests leaving it for at least three months in a cool dark place, just giving it an occasional shake. After a week the liquid has already turned an attractive deep red. At least the blackberry and apple jelly was ready much sooner and has already been enjoyed on toasted muffins and will fill a Victoria sandwich this weekend.