Autumn has arrived, sweeping its’ cape of autumnal colours over the landscape. Vivid yellows against the rich purple blue of dense slow motion clouds. This year, in the hedgerows there are unusually fat sloes tightly hanging onto their spiky branches, hurry to pick them before the image is torn apart by a lusty gust of wind.
After super, late in the evening, when my mother puts the sloe gin, a dish of chocolates and the small fluted Georgian cordial glasses on the table, it’s a signal she means business, and the men leave for us girls to talk. This is her recipe, again imprecise, more guidelines of how to put together this wonderful drink to be enjoyed from Christmas onwards.
Pick as many sloes as you can, that’s enough to fill a large clean sterilized glass jar. I use one that held 750 grams of olives. Wash and drain the fruit, remove stalks and leaves. To do away with the need to prick all over with a darning needle, break the skins by freezing the sloes overnight. Next day put the sloes into the jar, pour granulated sugar to come a third of the way up the fruit, add gin to cover. Put the lid on the jar then give it a good shake to dissolve the sugar and store in a cool dark cupboard, shake everyday for the first couple of weeks. Just before Christmas strain through muslin and pour into small bottles.