How to make your own sloe gin wedding favours...

There is a trick to foraging for sloe berries and making your own sloe gin which you must know now. I've been meaning to tell you this for a long time but as last Autumn rolled around and passed us by, I missed the opportunity.
You see if you want to forage for sloe berries, you must know how to identify them and springr is the easiest time to do it. Sloe berries, which look like large, firm blueberries, grow on the blackthorn bush which is commonly found in hedgerows on the side of roads and fields around the British countryside.

When I wanted to forage for berries to make our wedding favours, I was sure there'd be some in my village but wanted to be 100% sure I was collecting the right berries. No-one wants to be responsible for poisoning their wedding guests {images of the Red Wedding from Game of Thrones flashes through the mind}.

It is easy to identify them in the spring as they sprout a beautiful white blossom which makes them stand out a mile.

Once you know what to look for you can't help but see it, rows and rows of blackthorn bushes in the most unlikely places.
Usually at the side of roads or in unused fields....

Once you've located them and made a mental note you have quite a long wait, usually until the first frost which could be any time from early October to late November, before the fat juicy berries appear.

You'll need to be prepared with plenty of warm clothes, a bag or basket to collect the berries and a sturdy pair of gloves, as these hedges are prickly!
They really do look like blueberries but they do not taste like them so I wouldn't be tempted to taste if I were you. The laws of the countryside apply here so I try to leave some berries low down for scurrying animals and some high for the birds. Anything at eye level is your booty to take,

You can get quite the stash if you're happy to spend an hour or so rambling around. You're aiming for around 1kg of berries but unless you carry scales with you, you'll need to guess. Half a supermarket carrier bag is a good rule of thumb but get as many as you can. If you don't use them all you can always freeze them until you need them. Plus surely you'll want to make some extra for Christmas presents and a new year's hip flask.

It's good practice to give them a thorough freeze before using them, to replicate the frost that ripens them and unless you're getting married in the winter, you probably won't want to make your batch of sloe gin until after the festivities have passed.

We thawed our berries in the February and set to work making a batch of this merrymaking tonic. You'll need a big demi john or similar receptacle which has been thoroughly sterilised and has a good leak proof lid or stopper. We let ours mature for around 5-6 months but two months minimum is fine.

We wanted to make around 60 favours so you need a lot of gin....our preferred brand was the Aldi London Dry Gin

The berries stain so make sure you protect work surfaces and your hands, unless you like that vimto look...

We used a lot of sugar as we favoured a slightly sweeter taste but this might not be for everyone so adjust to taste...

Once you've added the ingredients to the demi john, you'll need to give it a good shake, a la Tom Cruise in cocktail.
You then need to agitate (or shake it, to you and I) every day for a week and weekly for at least two months to ensure the sugar dissolves and eventually it will start to look like a lovely dark red/ purple colour.
 I bought a job lot of small plastic bottles from Ebay for a reasonable price and made my own vintage looking labels which had a map showing where the berries were picked from.
 We used them as placeholders with brown luggage labels containing our guests names and they certainly seemed to go down a treat.

  • 1 kg sloes, washed and frozen
  • 85 g caster sugar
  • 1 litre gin
You would usually have to slit each sloe but freezing them means they burst of their own accord.

1. Put the frozen sloes into a sterilised jar and add the sugar and gin, seal tightly then shake well.

2. Store in a cool dark place and shake the bottle every day for a week and then once a week for at least two months.

3. Strain the gin through a muslin cloth into smaller bottles, put a stopper in each bottle and give to friends or family as gifts or enjoy yourself.

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