As this weekend is set to be sunny and the sloes this year are especially juicy, this weekend looks to be the perfect time to make sloe gin. Therefore, we hope the republication of this e-bulletin will be of use to our readers.
This e-bulletin was first published in 2019; it was based on the coincidence of timing, that to make a good sloe gin requires three months, whilst the period for calculating holiday pay was also changing to three months. The latter has now been and gone, so all law has been deleted from this e-bulletin, what we’re left with is sloe gin – enjoy.
How to Make Sloe Gin… Slowly
For me, the ideal period to leave a sloe gin from creation to consumption is three months. For those that are interested, right now is an ideal time to forage and make sloe gin, it’ll be ready for Christmas. On that note, may I be the first to wish you all a very merry Christmas! … Please address all complaint letters to our Chambers’ Director.
Unusually for an article about Employment and Professional Disciplinary Law, I am going to include a recipe and instructions for making sloe gin within this article. Why can’t employment law be interesting and tasty?
What You’ll Need
A sterilised, airtight container (approx. 2.5 to 3ltr)
Sloes (and some blackberries)
Brown caster sugar
Like a Blueberry but Bigger
First, a sloe looks a little bit like a blueberry but a little bit bigger. Sloes present either as a light bluish colour all the way through to dark purple, almost black, aim for the bluer ones. You’ll find them on the blackthorn bush, you know, those bushes with inch-long thorns. They’re often planted at the sides of fields acting as a boundary or as livestock fences. More often than not, you’ll find them close to or mixed in with blackberry bushes and brambles.
… thinking about it, you may as well grab a few handfuls of blackberries whilst you’re foraging, they’ll add another dimension to your sloe gin.
For this recipe you’ll need about 500g of sloes – as a rough guide, that’s about two plastic takeaway containers, or a decent 1/3 fill of your biodegradable carrier bag.
The First Frost
You may have heard that you should wait for the first frost before picking sloes, that’s because the frost can help with the hard work, it helps to split the skin and let the sloes’ juice out. However, overnight in the freezer does just as good a job if not better.
The difficulty in waiting for the first frost (if you’re a traditionalist) is that by the time the first frost hits, the fruit may have become mouldy on the plant, or they may have been got at by animals. This weekend is therefore ideal.
Make it Sweet
Next, sugar, my preference is for golden caster sugar, it just adds to the richness in my opinion. Though sweetness is always a matter for person taste, sloe gin should be a little syrupy, and therefore you need sufficient to achieve that. Also, sloes are incredibly bitter (try one whilst foraging, you’ll only do it once… also a good game is to give one to your toddler and tell them it’s a blueberry, all trust will be lost but it’s worth it to see the look on their face)… so you need plenty of sugar.
A middle of the road quantity for sugar is about 250-300g.
Gin, Gin, Gin
Next, unsurprisingly our key component for sloe gin, is gin. Don’t go for anything of any real quality (but avoid meths from the garden shed). Try to avoid heavily-flavoured gins, just go and get 1 to 2ltrs of supermarket own-brand gin.
I’ve mentioned blackberries above, a few can be added to the mix. Also some cosmopolitan types have also been known to add a quarter or two of a lime, it can help to cut through the sweetness.
Your airtight container should be sterilised, the hottest setting of your dishwasher is sufficient. A container with a wide top is easiest, and those with the rubber seal between body and top are ideal.
Lob the frozen sloes and blackberries into the jar. Lob the sugar onto the fruit. Lob your cheapo gin onto the mixture. Seal it tightly. Even if sealed well, you may want to put two or three layers of clingfilm over the top and down the sides, and to use a couple of elastic bands around the neck of the container: belt and braces, just like a lawyer.
Then shake it, shake it like the Shake ‘n’ Vac advert from the 1980s. Those born after 1986, ask your parents. Shake the mixture until the gin starts to colour and the sugar is dissolved.
For the next week keep your mixture somewhere dark – prolonged sunlight destroys good sloe gin. A kitchen cupboard is absolutely fine. Once a day, take the mixture out and give it a really good shake, it helps to break down the fruit and agitate the contents so all that Christmassy alchemy can take place.
Then leave it somewhere dark for its autumnal hibernation, and when you remember or whenever you see it, just give it another little shake, before putting it back into its dark nest.
Now wait three months or so. It’s Christmas Eve. If you’ve got friends, you’ve invited them over. If not, you’re on your own. Either way, you’ll need something tasty to drink.
Take your mixture and sieve it to remove the bits and pieces (don’t throw them away). A slightly syrupy reddish/purple liquid should be produced and you may want to drink it neat, as a warming liqueur, or if you want a slightly looser drink, pour a decent slug into the bottom of a champagne glass and top up with Prosecco for a sloe-gin fizz.
Take your discarded sloes and blackberries. Having pre-bought a number of chocolate mousses, spoon a little of the fruity/boozy leftovers onto the top for a little pick-me-up if the company of your friends is less than scintillating.
Where’s the Law?
There is no law… this is just a sloe-gin recipe.