Sloes are an underated member of our hedgrow harvest. Their lip-puckeringly sour taste means they are often relegated to popping in a gin bottle with oodles of sugar but there is so much more than can be made using this beautiful wild plum.
Whether Sloe and Apple Jelly or a warming Sloe Gin, winter would not be the same without a jar or bottle of these nestled in the larder. The jelly can be used on toast, alongside a mutitude of roasts, including nut roasts, stirred into gravies to give them a depth of flavour and shine, or melted with a few drops of water and drizzled over tarts, cakes and cheesecakes to glisten in the low winter light.
Sloe gin is perfect sipped from hip flasks on a snowy winter walk, popped into a glass of fizz or cocktails as an alternative to raspberry liqueur, or slowly imbibed in front of a roaring fire.
Sloe & Apple Jelly
1kg crab apples/windfall apples
~4 large clean jam jars and lids
Wash the apples and sloes and drain. Pick the apples over and remove any bruised parts then simpy cut up – DON’T core or peel (the pectin in these help the jelly set and will all be removed in the straining process). Place all the fruit in a preserving pan and half fill with water.
[preserving pans have wider brims to allow water to quickly evaporate and also have a very heavy base so don’t allow the jam/jelly to burn when on a rolling boil. If all this jargon scares you then book onto our Preserving Course: Chutney & Chilli Jam and we’ll guide you through it all step by step]
Bring to simmering point and simmer uncovered until the apples are soft and the sloes have dropped their stones.
Tip the mixture into a sterlised jelly bag and leave to drip overnight – WITHOUT SQUEEZING – otherwise your jelly will be cloudy and win no prizes at your local show.
Measure your juice and for every 570ml/1pint you’ll need 450g/1lb sugar.
Warm your juice in the clean preserving pan (maximum 3 pints per pan – I have learnt this at my cost as pans of sticky jelly bubbled over onto gas hobs – a nightmare to clean).
Add your sugar and stir over a lower heat until no crystals can be felt under the spoon.
Bring to a rolling boil and boil until setting point is reached. I use a wooden spoon to test this – it should drop off as a flake. Test early since this is a very sticky jelly and will firm up in the jar.
Pot and seal in warmed and sterilised jam jars whilst warm.
450g sloes – pricked all over with a needle or frosted
450g sugar – vary this according to whether you like sweet or sharper drinks
1 pint/600ml gin
Pop them in a wide mouthed jar and shake vigorously. Place in a dark cupboard and shake 2-3- times a week until the liquid is infused with colour of the sloes 8-12 weeks i.e. in time for Xmas! Ideally you should make a batch for the following year since this considerably improves with time. Strain through a nylon sieve; pour into pretty bottles & seal.