Catching up

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You wouldn’t believe how many small steps there are in producing a decent bottle of apple juice.

Apart from the preparation and pressing there’s the bottles – wash, dry, heat to 140 degrees Centigrade, fill, put lid on loosely (after boiling lids for 5 minutes), pasteurise, screw tops down, put bottles on side so that hot juice covers the inside of the lid, wash so that you don’t get sticky bottles or mould growing round the cap, apply labels.

That’s eleven operations. With Saturday’s production that’s over 700 individual operations, without taking temperatures, stacking, moving, burning fingers, swearing and mopping the floor. And printing the labels, recounting the labels, realising you don’t have enough and ordering more from Amazon.

And I thought it was all about good quality fruit, the right scratter and plenty of elbow grease. How wrong can you be?

It’s the same with sloe gin. What is basically a simple process – bung sloes in gin and add sugar, shake, wait, drink – becomes much more complex when you start reading the various recipes.

How much sugar, whether to prick the sloes and whether to wait for the first frost are all matters of debate. Extensive debate,

Here’s my answer. Do what you want. We used to buy sloes from a grocer in Bakewell at the end of the summer holidays, drop them in gin or vodka (we often didn’t prick them all because it’s tedious, and possibly even dangerous), shake them when we remembered, leave them till Christmas and it always tasted good. Once someone told us about freezing – thereby splitting the skins and simulating frost – we never looked back.

There is no mystery to sloe gin. There is no need to spend two hours looking at recipes. All I learned from that two hours is that I know all I need to know about sloe gin (that’s not being boastful – there just isn’t much to know) and that it is very easy to waste the best part of an afternoon browsing the internet.

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