Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Damson vodka and sloe gin - the recipe

Sloe gin and similar are basically a spirit that has been flavoured by having fruit and sugar steeped in it. You could probably do it with brussels sprouts or woodlice, but I doubt it would come out very well. That said, I believe that in Denmark they sometimes use beech leaves and there's also a French drink involving artichokes. It's hard to beat sloe or damson gin or vodka, though, and I really don't think you have to use posh booze to do it. We've used alcool pour fruits (spiritous by-product of French viniculture, for preserving fruit) very successfully, for example. I also like the idea that sloe or damson gin was something classy made with help from the hedgerows and a little time by people who couldn't afford the parson's brandy, or the squire's champagne and claret.

Sloes and damsons are both prunus - that is, plum family. Sloes are found on a thorny bush called blackthorn. Both are a bluey-purple (though damsons can be other colours too). Blackthorn is essentially a hedgerow plant and the sloes are no bigger than cherries, while damsons are bigger and more obviously a small plum. They grow wild too but are also cultivated. To add to the confusion, types of plum hybridize quite easily, and there's also one called a bullace (also fine in spirits). So, if you're in a country where these things grow and you would like to have a go at making your own fun in hard times, do some research in books, online, and in hedgerows. Half a kilo of fruit will do you to start with, but if you're reading this today, you haven't got lots of time left. Cho and I may have beaten you too it.

Once you've picked the fruit, freeze it until you’ve got the time and equipment together (and see below for quantities). Some people believe that the fruit is best if it has been frosted in any case, but on Sunday we didn't bother with freezing as the fruit was quite ripe. Start by rolling each fruit by hand over a cheese grater to break the skin a little (quicker than pricking with a pin) and drop them into a suitably sized kilner-type jar with a self-sealing lid. Pour the sugar onto the fruit, leaving it to steep for a few hours. Pour on the spirit. Clamp the lid shut tight and shake the jar. Leave a while, shake again, and repeat till the sugar has dissolved (which may even take a day or two). Put the jar away in a dark place shaking now and again (e.g on Sundays) and leave for three months or longer. Strain or decant into bottles.

Note that the quantities below are a bit approximate, because one year and at different times the fruit will naturally have more or less fruit sugar than another. We've used the same basic recipe whether sloes or damsons, by the way. Quite a lot of recipes suggest a quantity of almond essence too, but we’ve never used it. Some people favour vodka, as more neutral, over gin. There are also two schools of thought re sugar: those who like lots, and those who don't. However, I think that if you go easy on the sugar you can always try the drink after three months and add a little more sugar if you want, and try it again later.

All in all I reckon, staying conservative about sugar (but certainly not about politics if you can help it), and recognising that it's a little hit and miss at the best of times, that you could memorably and metrically summarise it thus:
           500g fruit
          100g sugar
          1 litre spirit      
It's generally recommended that you strain the spirit after no more than 12 months  – i.e not leaving the fruit in longer – so that the fruit stones don't make the drink taste too bitter. I've also made gooseberry and ginger white rum on the same basis, by the way. Cho likes it. I'm not sure yet. We both thought that the quince vodka made the same way was pretty good.

1 comment:

  1. Sloe Gin and Damson Vodka will be that they can genuinely taste from the fruit. when people are celebrated any kind of event so that's prefer to organized sloe gin drink party with a natural way.

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