Tag Archives: sloe gin

More on sloes

Further to the last post I’m happy to report that I managed to find two bottles of Sloe Vodka left over from previous years – one is a delicate pink from last year and the other, from three years ago, has taken on the red/brown colour of old port. I don’t think it has matured in the bottle – just that the older sample was darker and less well filtered to start with.

I have also done four hours research (I use the term loosely – it was the internet) and I am now a sloe expert.

Strangely, when looking for words to describe my newly self-declared status, it was a bit of a struggle. There’s something immodest about calling yourself an expert (even in jest). The words that come to mind are mainly from other languages – fundi, guru and maven all spring to mind. I should probably reflect on this meaning that we Brits are a modest race, but I’m sure there are other, better qualified people to do this.

The problem is that fundi and maven aren’t widespread in England and to call your self a guru is to invite a measure of suspicion, as the word has a number of negative connotations (unless you move in circles that refer to “touching base”, “running it up the flagpole” and “singing from the same hymn sheet”.)

Talking of business cliches how about this – “allocating budget to a delivery structure”. It’s a lot of words that mean “do things” whilst pretending that we have (a) a budget and (b) a “delivery structure”. It has inspired me to start a list of such things.

So, here I am, an expert.


I now know that the best way to make sloe gin. You use cheap gin, or expensive gin. You add sloes that have been picked after the first frost, picked in late summer, frozen, pricked or bashed. Then you add no sugar, some sugar, half the sugar or lots of sugar – because you don’t need lots of sugar or can always add some later (in the form of sugar or syrup).

See – all you need to know about sloe gin – written by experts, people who have been doing it 50 years, people with chemistry degrees, winemakers and people who have just started making it but have read about it on the internet.

You now know as much as I do, but didn’t have to spend four hours doing it!

All you need to decide now is whether to prick the sloes with a thorn from the tree, a silver pin, an ordinary pin, a fork or a device made from cork and multiple pins.

Oh, and you need a position on osmosis.

Now you’ve read all that send me a fiver and I’ll send you a certificate to print out.

Or you can come down to the farm next September to attend our Sloe Gin workshop (yes, I’m serious – putting it together now).

Got to go now – sandwiches to make.

Will be back later.



Things that went right

Well, I did a post a while back on things that didn’t go according to plan. I’m feeling a bit more upbeat at the moment, so here’s a companion piece about a few things that went right.

The agriforestry project is going nicely and we’ve just had a review of the results from the Woodland Trust, with Quercus Community being mentioned (which is unusual as we normally get missed out or referred to as “farm staff”). That’s good because everyone is going to get a copy of the report to take home and show their parents.

We’ve just started planting under the trees as part of the second phase, with rhubarb and wild garlic going in.Some of the rhubarb is Timperley Early from the market and some is Early Red that we grew from seed this year.

You can’t see much rhubarb in the picture, but if it’s ever viewed by the right village it will probably solve the mystery of where their idiot disappeared to all those years ago.

byron rhubarb

Based on this year’s harvest and the pressing we should be on for a bumper year next year. So far we’ve passed the production for last year and the cider is tasting good. There’s a slight disagreement on that subject at the moment – I think it’s shaping up nicely to be a flat, dry cider. The farmer thinks it’s like vinegar, but I suspect that’s because his idea of cider is something sweet and fizzy. So far all we’ve done is put it in a demijohn with an airlock and the natural yeast from the apples. We may add a little sugar to give it some sparkle but I’m hoping that will be all. Quite honestly I’ve been a bit surprised by the number of things some people add to the stuff when you read some of the recipes on the Internet.


And finally, here is the Sloe Gin. The photo is a bit strange because the flash shows up all the mess on the glass and alters the colour a little. I’ve just had to decant it all into a bigger jar as the seal on one of the smaller ones started to leak (something we only found when someone tipped one up to look at it). Despite that it’s looking (and tasting) good, though I only had a couple of spoonfuls that wouldn’t fit into the new jar. Honest.Drunk in charge of an Ecocentre wouldn’t look good on my record.


Signs, gin and Christmas puddings

It’s been days since the past post – sorry about that. I’ve been locked in a cycle of work and sleep that doesn’t seem to have left time for anything else. Well, to be accurate I suppose work, sleep and staring at the TV in a trance-like state. I can’t tell you what I’ve been watching but I’ve failed to see the end of a lot of it.

After one day, where we had a group in, meetings and ran a craft session we eventually left the farm at 10.30 one night, only to be stopped by a neighbour who wanted to know what we were doing.

“Going home.” I said.

It wasn’t the politest of answers but after 13 hours at work I’m not the politest of people. Actually, I’m considered “direct” at the best of times. In my world “direct” is good and saves time but other people don’t seem to see it that way. .

So, to sum up, since we’ve last blogged we’ve had 50 kids in for a day on the farm, the Quercus group, a project meeting, a craft session, Men in Sheds, done enough paperwork to choke a hippo, made sloe gin and had a day off to do personal stuff including sorting the Great Car Purchase Debacle.

Going back to the old hamster analogy, I feel like a hamster in a wheel that’s been put in a cider press – not only going in endless circles but being pressurised at the same time.

I’m going to put some effort into relaxation over the weekend and hope that normal service will be restored next week.



Sloe Gin


Felting – ready for Christmas

Catching up


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.