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Sloe gin; where to find sloes and what to do with them

It might seem a little early to be thinking about this winter staple, but early autumn is the perfect time to hunt for sloes. By foraging for sloes and making your sloe gin or cordial now you can guarantee you have a plentiful supply of festive drinks.

Our Ribble Rivers Trust approved sloe gin guide will give you the perfect deep purple sweet gin

Firstly, what is a sloe? Sloes are the berries off the flowering blackthorn bushes, which is a common species found all over the UK. You’ll find blackthorn in most hedgerows. Each year the amount of fruit on blackthorn bushes varies greatly, depending on the weather throughout the year. The perfect round and juicy berries require just the right amount of water and warmth.

The berries are ripe when they are a dark purple colour and fairly squashy. Another clue is to look on the ground, if the berries are falling, they’re probably ready. You might have heard that you need to wait for the first frost before you can pick the berries, but there is no real reason to do this. Instead pop them in the freezer to split the skins, making them easier to prick.

If sloe gin isn’t for you or you don’t drink alcohol don’t worry- we have a delicious cordial recipe for you to try instead. Or, if you prefer a plain but deliciously blended gin, then check out our corporate supporters at No. 1 Fairham Gin. The gin is carefully hand crafted by the lovely Ellis and Liam using specially sourced botanicals, packaged in eco-friendly materials. Plus, for every retail bottle sold they donate the equivalent of a tree to Ribble Rivers Trust- what a bonus!

How to make sloe gin

  • 1 litre of gin
  • 500g sloes
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 2 empty sterilised gin bottles
  1. Wash the sloes, and dry them, making sure that there are no leaves or other debris with your berries. Freeze your berries until you are ready to make your gin, or for at least 12 hours (this will mean that you don’t have to prick each berry).
  2. Split your frozen sloes between the two bottles, then add the gin and sugar. Once the sloes have thawed, shake the bottles well and put on the lids.
  3. Store the bottles in a cool dark place and shake them once a day for a week. Then continue to store your gin and shake the bottles once a week. Try to leave it for at least 2 months, although it’ll only improve over time.

How to make sloe cordial

  • 1kg washed sloes
  • 1litre of water
  • Juice of one lemon
  • 600g granulated sugar
  • Empty sterilised glass bottles
  1. Put the washed sloes, water, and lemon juice in a large pan, bring to the boil and simmer for around 5 minutes.
  2. As the sloes start to soften mash them up slightly, then simmer for another 10-15 minutes.
  3. Allow to cool then, taking extreme care, sieve the warm mixture. If you want your mixture to be completely lump free then use muslin cloth to catch the fruit and stones.
  4. Now, using a measuring jug, calculate how much liquid you have left, then add approximately 80g of sugar per 100ml of liquid. Then add this mixture back to the pan, bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Allow to cool and bottle.