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At this time of year, the only post that possibly may be more popular on here than my guide showing you How To Make Damson & Sloe Gin I wrote way back when in 2014 (!) is my recipe showing you How To Make Damson Jam. It is very clear to me that you’re all just as much into autumn foraging as I am!
Usually I like to stick to tradition: I’ve been making either a batch of sloe gin or damson gin, or both for as long as I’ve been old enough to do so, and if for any reason my fruit supply is unavailable I’ve gone to great lengths to secure some – just a gentle reminder to all that when you forage it is really bad form to strip a patch clean – not only is it polite to leave something for the next forager, but you might be doing damage to the local ecosystem too by removing some little creature’s food source!
Anyway, what I’m trying to get at is I’m a creature of habit, so it was quite momentous occasion when I found something I enjoyed sipping more at Christmas than my usual foraged fruit gins: say hello to my homemade Sloe Brandy.
My mission to make my own sloe brandy started as something of a footnote, a passing mention I read in a cookery book (it might have been Rosie Birkett’s The Joyful Home Cook#ad, but I may be wrong) to finishing off the last of the Christmas sloe brandy. Now, as a sloe gin obsessive my metaphorical ears (I was reading, not listening, after all) perked up: you can make sloe brandy? A quick Google found this is not something often made, though it has been done. No recipes were available from sources I trusted, let alone said book, so I just decided to make up a batch using my regular sloe gin recipe and just see what happened three months hence.
Happily, the result is stunning: rich, syrupy, and more suited to sipping – chased with a little water – in front of the fire while you’re wrapping presents or decorating the tree, or even as a nightcap or after dinner drink – much more suitable in the evenings than a gin and tonic. As it was an experiment I used cheap brandy – ASDA own brand would you believe it as I’ve broken up with Waitrose post-lockdown (before if you said Waitrose was too expensive you were not doing it properly. Now all their stunning quality budget ranges are reduced and even a basket usually will set you back £50!) – and just like when making sloe gin, you don’t want to be investing in something fancy here as you won’t taste enough of the difference. Seriously, one year I had so much free gin in the house (what a problem, I know!) I tried making a batch of sloe gin with premium gin, and it was honestly a waste of good gin.
In any case, if you happen to have some sloes in the hedgerows near you, make this the year you try sloe brandy. I know the old saying is to gather sloes after the first frost, but, honestly, I’ve found in recent years that is no longer necessary – if you get started now, while you really should leave it to infuse for a full three months after last Christmas I don’t think anyone will blame you if you crack it open a few days early for a Christmas day tipple!
Homemade Sloe Brandy is a rich, fruity alternative to sloe gin, the perfect festive treat to enjoy over the holiday period made from foraged sloes, sugar and an affordable bottle of French brandy.
350g granulated sugar
1 75cl (75ml) bottle French brandy
Prick the sloes all over with a pin – removing any steps and discarding any that have gone bad – and transfer them to a large, air tight preserving jar. This does take some time so alternatively you can freeze them and simply add the frozen berries to the jar – their skins will split as they defrost.
Add the sugar and the brandy, seal the lid and give it a good shake. Do this every few days or so.
Leave the jar in a cool dark place for 3 months before straining through a fine sieve or a piece of muslin and storing in glass bottles waiting to be drunk!
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