My parents, being essentially country people not townies, used to pick sloes when they saw them on the blackthorn trees in the autumn and they would be made into sloe gin… simple, sloes, sugar, gin that’s it! The quantities would vary according to taste so we had a thick port-dark sloe gin which would almost cling to the sides of the liqueur glass. My aunty, mum’s sister, used less sloes so her sloe gin was lighter in colour, and to my taste, lighter in flavour. I confess, I’ve never successfully made sloe gin, never up to mum and dad’s standard – I think in these sugar-sensitive days I just don’t add enough!
A year or so ago, at a party we gave, a friend gave us a selection of home-made jellies – crab apple, my favourite, apple from different varieties of fruit (something I’d never thought of – and they did have distinctive colours and flavours) and a sloe and apple jelly… Why had I never thought of this? I used to love making jellies and jams – in fact we don’t eat a lot of them so my beautiful jars would sit on the shelves for years; I don’t make it any more – and as I mentioned at the beginning of this paragraph, the jellies from a friend are well over a year old! This sloe and apple jam is so delicious, lovely, perfumey aroma when you unscrew the lid, crystal clear gel, deep distinctive flavour… Maybe I’ll make some next year…
I look in my old ‘Unusual Preserves’ cookery book (by the WI – the Women’s Institute, first published in 1969) and there is bramble and sloe jelly – 1 lb blackberries to ¼lb sloes, sloe jelly – 1 pint of cooked, sieved, strained sloe liquor to 1 lb warmed sugar, and sloe chutney… a sweet, smooth chutney which would probably taste good with Stilton or other blue cheeses:
2 lbs sloes
1 lb brown sugar
½ lb stoned raisins
1 stick cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
½ vinegar (originally it would have been malt vinegar, might it be nicer with cider vinegar?)
- put sloes in a casserole on a very low heat until they are soft
- rub through a sieve and add the other ingredients (spices in a muslin bag)
- boil gently for ½ an hour
- pot up in small jars, and ‘cover to avoid evaporation’ – not sure if this means while it is setting, or when it is set and using wax discs… perhaps do both!