Tuesday, 11 September 2007
Nice and sloe
We had a great weekend seeing friends and being outside, trying to cram in as much of the last of the summer's sunshine as possible. I know from reading other blogs recently that I'm not alone in noticing the approach of Autumn. You can smell it in the air and, whilst we're enjoying these last few days of summer there is no denying that things are changing.
I always think that September is a bittersweet month, it marks the end of summer and lazy days with the children but it also brings with it the excitement of something new, fresh and exciting.
Once I've recovered from the shorter evenings (which for me is the hardest of the changes) and Autumn has finally taken hold, I do feel strangely refreshed and excited by things. After the gloom of the children returning to school and before the grey gloom of a British winter, there are those few weeks of being able to go out and enjoy the changes. Long walks in the countryside, good books to read, a change of clothes, something good to watch on TV (fingers crossed) and the planning of Christmas (!) which at this stage of the year, before the frantic shopping and mass consumerism of December, is still enjoyable ( and I know I won't be talking like this in a couple of months time!).
One of the things that always marks the ending of Summer and beginning of Autumn is our annual trek onto the Downs to pick sloes for sloe gin, which makes the perfect pressie for Christmas. At the end of the holidays we were out walking and found that the sloes were not nearly as abundant as usual. Emma was that you? Either someone had got there before us or it hasn't been a particularly good year. We usually pick them a few weeks from now after the first frost but we realised that if we waited any longer there would have been none left to pick. Don't be tempted by their beautiful bluish tinge to pop one into your mouth, they taste disgusting!
It really is very easy to make sloe gin. For every 1lb (450g) of sloes you pick, you need 4oz (100g) sugar and a bottle of gin, plus a few drops of almond essence (optional). Remove stalks from sloes and wash them. Prick each sloe with a darning needle (the kids love doing this and have not yet ended up with fingers resembling pin cushions). If you can't be bothered to prick them and a mountain of sloes does look quite daunting - just stick them in the freezer overnight or for a few days and they should burst by themselves.
Put the sloes into a large-necked screw top jar(s) and add sugar and almond essence if using. Fill the bottle with gin (no need to use an expensive brand), screw the lid back on and place in a cupboard for about three months (Or until Christmas is fine). Shake the jars every once in a while and you'll notice the sloes infusing the gin with their gorgeous colour. At the end of this time, strain the sloes and liquid through muslin and pour into pretty bottles. Easy! The hardest part is waiting ...
It really is a gorgeous drink, warming and rounded. It doesn't taste of gin at all. Worth making just for the colour and remember to make an extra bottle to keep for yourself!