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Don’t forget about sloes

Sloes are ripening and whilst there are plenty of recipes for making Sloe Gin, there are other uses for them too so, don’t let them go to waste say the professional domestic cleaners, MOLLY MAID.

Sloes, which come from Blackthorn bushes, are very small, green-fleshed, inky-skinned, wild plums with an acid flesh and bitter skin. Sloes are generally too bitter and sour to eat raw, but taste superb when preserved. They have an intense plum taste. They’re commonly found in hedgerows in England, Wales and Ireland and whist making a wonderful sloe gin, they also make a fabulous jam.

Traditionally, sloes used for sloe gin are picked after the first frost as this helps the alcohol to permeate the fruit. Alternatively, pricking each fruit with a darning needle, or spreading them out on a baking tray and leaving them in the freezer for a couple of hours will help to simulate frost.

Country Life have great recipes for sloes, which is a must, but why not try something a little different too like jelly or jam?

Top tip: When you’re picking from the blackthorn bushes do beware of the prickles…they still catch the most experienced pickers out.

Ingredients

12oz of fruit (350g)

3 oz of caster sugar (75g)

1 bottle of gin (75cl)

A small dash of almond essence

A couple of jam jars with good, tight-fitting lids (sterilized and cooled preferably)

A jelly bag

Decorative bottles for eventual storage

  • Wash the sloes in warm water, and remove (or drown!) any hitchhikers in insect form that may have made their way to the sink.
  • Using a sturdy needle (such as a darning needle) prick each fruit a few times, and divide the spoils between the two jam jars.
  • Put half the sugar and half the gin (or as much as will fit) into each jar.
  • Add a couple of drops of the almond essence to each one.
  • Close the lids tightly and store in a cool, dry, dark place.
  • Give the jars a good shake each day, until all of the sugar has dissolved
  • Leave to mature for at least three months – but don’t let the fruit spoil, so no more than six.
  • Taste for sweetness, and add sugar if necessary/preferred.
  • Continue the ‘daily shakes’ until all of the newly added sugar has dissolved.
  • Carefully strain all the liquid through a jelly bag and decant into decorative bottles. (Don’t forget to label!).
  • Now the gin is ready to drink – but is best left to mature for a bit longer (a couple of months) – it will now keep indefinitely.
  • Don’t throw the sloes away after you’ve drained them – they are now deliciously sweet and can be covered in chocolate and eaten with ice-cream, or as a post-supper treat.

Sloe and Bramley Apple Jelly

This works really well with strong red meats such as lamb and with strong cheese too courtesy of http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds/700g sloes, washed

1 1/2 pounds/700g of bramley cooking apples (ideal) or any other cooking apples. We use windfalls as they won’t keep.

Sugar (1 UK pint/750ml/2 1/2 cups of strained juice to 1 1/2 pounds/700g of white granulated sugar, if using cooking apples. 1 pint/750ml/2 1/2 cups of strained juice to 1 pound/454g if using sweet eating apples).

  • Wash the apples, cut out bad bits and chop roughly. There is no need to peel or core the apples.
  • Place sloes and apples in a large deep heavy bottomed saucepan, or preserving pan.
  • Add water to cover ½ of the fruit. Bring slowly to the boil and simmer very gently until all the fruit is soft and squishy.
  • Pour the cooked fruit through sterilised muslin. The muslin is often referred to as a “jelly bag”. We use tall buckets to catch the drips from the jelly bags. Rather than hang the bags (conventional method-between two stools) it’s easier to line a large plastic sieve with the muslin. This clips neatly onto the top of a clean bucket. The sieve is covered with a clean tea cloth to protect against flies.
  • Leave the jelly bag to drip overnight (or about 12 hours).
  • Measure the juice the next day.
  • Pour the juice into a deep heavy bottomed saucepan and add 1½ lb/700g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice.
  • Heat the juice and sugar gently stirring from time to time, so as to make sure that that all the sugar has dissolved before bringing the liquid slowly to the boil.
  • Continue to boil for about 10 minutes before testing for a set. This is called a rolling boil.
  • Tossing in a nugget of butter towards the end will reduce the frothing that can occur.
  • When jelly has reached setting point pour into warm sterilised jars using a funnel and ladle.
  • Cover immediately with plastic lined screw top lids or waxed disks and cellophane tops secured with a rubber band.
  • Label when cold and store in a cool, dark place. Away from damp.
  • Flavour them with orange zest, cloves, cinnamon or almond essence. Preserve them as sloe gin, sloe wine, sloe jelly, sloe syrup, and sloe plum cheese. A spoonful of sloe jelly can be added to plum pies or used in sponge cakes.

 

Sloe Jam

Similar techniques used in making the above jelly are also involved when making the jam. Why not try this delicious jam on fresh crusty white bread with butter? Heavenly…

Ingredients:

1kg (2lb) sloes

1kg (2lb) white sugar

Water

  • Place the sloes in a preserving pan, and add just sufficient water to cover them.
  • Heat gently for 2 hours, pressing the fruits with the back of a spoon or a potato masher in the later stages to break them open.
  • Place a colander over a large bowl and pour the contents of the preserving pan through it, rubbing the fruits around to allow the juice and flesh to pass through, whilst retaining the stones.
  • Discard the stones.
  • Weigh the liquid then return it to the preserving pan
  • Add the same weight of sugar to the pan (so for 1kg of juice add 1kg of sugar etc)
  • Heat gently whilst stirring well to dissolve all the sugar.
  • Bring to the boil, and boil hard until setting point is reached.
  • Pour into pre-heated and sterilized jars.
  • Seal well and label.
  • These make perfect homemade gifts!

Have fun foraging and don’t forget to pick the sloes when you’re out on your blackberry hunt!