JOANNA'S FOOD: family cooking, from scratch, every day


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Sticky sloe vodka


















Earlier this week I picked some sloes - including the ones in the picture - and combined them with vodka and rather a lot of soft brown sugar to make a stickier version of the usual liqueur. At least, I hope that's what will happen. If not, I'll add some more sugar when I bottle it. I don't quite see the point of a tart liqueur, which is what you get with the usual sloe gin recipe (450g sloes / 250g white sugar / one litre gin).

Sticky sloe vodka


450g sloes
450g soft brown sugar
most of a litre of vodka
a 1 1/2 litre Le Parfait bottling jar

I can't say that I'm using vodka to get the "cleaner" flavour some people write about - I've never noticed the all-pervading taste of juniper in sloe gin; it was more a case of - oh good, there's some vodka in the cupboard.

You do have to prick the sloes, but one hole is enough, and if you do it with a fork you can prick two at once. It doesn't take long, and, although your fingers get blue, the dye washes off easily. Put everything into the jar, seal and shake. Keep in a cool dark place, and shake it up fairly regularly.

This will be ready for bottling at the very earliest the week before Christmas. It will be better to wait until the week before next Christmas, but I do see that may not be possible. On the other hand, you may forget all about it, and discover it some years later, in which case it will also be fine. Bottling is easy if you have both a large funnel and a fine plastic sieve.



Really thrifty people use the sloes in baking after they've bottled up the liqueur, but then you really do have to take out the stones, because, in truth, a sloe is more stone than flesh. Flapjacks seem to be the preferred option. Lazy people don't bother to strain this, in which case they often put the sloes straight into a bottle. This is more trouble than using a jar. (I have never done the thrift thing, but I have done the lazy thing. And the forgetting thing.)

This type of seasonal preserving is quick and easy; it's not exactly food for free (all that vodka!), but it's definitely making the most of what's free in the hedges - and it's a lovely winter treat, either to drink, or to use in cooking, or to pour on ice cream. It also has the bonus of making you feel rather clever.

PS: There's a lot of debate about whether or not you should wait until the first frost before picking sloes. Even in a good year such as this, waiting until the first frost means that the birds will get them - they know far better than we where the best bushes are ... indeed, there were blackbirds nesting in the hedge less than a foot away from where I was picking.

12 comments:

katiez said...

Our friend (British) in Spain makes this (or similar) every year and it's sooo good. I, unfortunatly, have no idea what a sloe-bearing bush looks like. Maybe next year I'll go with him to pick!

Joanna said...

The photograph in my post shows sloes on the bush. They're small, and small-leaved, and when you go to pick them you get barbed by the spikes on the bushes. Utterly inedible, unless you're a blackbird! The bushes are found intermittently in ancient hedgerows, and, in England, are one of the indicators of the age of the hedge (look carefully at a 100m stretch of ancient hedgerow; count the individual wild species; each one you find represents a century - so the hedge on our lane has 10 separate wild species and is therefore approximately 1,000 years old; I have more information on this somewhere, if anyone is interested).

Amanda at Little Foodies said...

This sounds great. I've done the lazy thing, haven't done the frugal thing, have definitely done the forgetting thing - delicious find!. Meant to pick sloes this weekend. I'm far too impatient to wait for the first frosts.

Yes please and thank you Joanna - to the information on ancient hedgerows.

Valli said...

I'm sorry Joanna but I just had to look up on the net what a sloe berry was. It tells me it is a berry from the blackthorne.I'd have to say we don't have blackthornes in Canada. I wonder if you could substitute red or black currants?? I know they make wine from elderberries?

Joanna said...

Hi Valli ... I'm not really an expert here, but I should think you could use any fruit at all to flavour gin or vodka - sloes are a very traditional autumn / winter liqueur in Britain, but I've made strawberry vodka before now (blogged about it, too!), so I think red or black currants would be fine, too. Blueberries?

Good luck!

Joanna

David Hall said...

Hi Joanna

Guess what I'm off doing in about 10 minutes? Yes, sloe picking! Just spotted your note on the forums, I was on last week asking if anybody knew of blackthorn bushes where I live and thankfully somebody responded. This recipe sounds great. I sense a boozy few months ahead!

Cheers
David

David Hall said...

Bonus today Joanna. Came back with 2 kilos of sloe which are in the freezer ready for popping. Also managed to get a kilo or so of wild plums, damsons or greengauges (I cant tell!!!) and have made some of your sticky vodka with half of them, and jelly with the others! Hooray for free food!
Cheers
David

Joanna said...

David - Thought of you this morning, when I was on the train to London, out there picking sloes - so glad you found so many. Will you let me know whether putting them in the freezer is as good as pricking them with a fork ... I've heard that it works, but never tried it, and I'm all for labour-saving short-cuts! The jelly sounds fab

Joanna

sunofessex said...

as for freezing it improves the flavour, although it is better to pick the berries after the first frost.

sunofessex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
themoogle said...

Hello Joanna, I've just bottled my Christmas batch! Drunk quite a bit too....very fine over ice with lemon!

Joanna said...

Thanks for the reminder, time to get out the Christmas sloe gin ... we've just been watching the 3 tenors, just had supper - perfect timing ;)

Joanna