My intrepid husband Sam spent last weekend foraging Schlehen, or as they are known in English, sloes. Here is his account of making Sloe Gin:
It was Jack White and Loretta Lynn who introduced me to Sloe Gin. I wish I could tell you that on my first date with Andie I even drank a Sloe Gin Fizz, but I must confess it was only a regular Gin Fizz.
While I’ve been an eager consumer of Studer Sloe Gin (courtesy of my sister), I somehow never considered making this magical beverage at home. The main reason being that I had no clue how to get sloes, known in German as Schlehe.
As you may guess, this all changed when I set out for a hike last weekend. A mere stone’s throw from our house along the Ilfis, I passed a tree with blue fruit that looked like the teensiest plums. Further research confirmed that they were indeed sloes (or a close relative like the bullace). They seemed just about ripe (a bit early, but we had a very warm summer, so not unlikely). Either way, it didn't matter what plum relative it was, the motto in our house is: as long as it’s plummy, it’s bound to be yummy.
Obviously, there was only one possible course of action. The next day I set out for the Denner, purchased a bottle of gin, armed myself with some gardening gloves, and set out to collect some of these beautiful blue gems.
In Switzerland, jelly, jam, or syrup are quite common uses of sloe. But sloe liqueur is also made (though not necessarily with gin) and often spiced.
As I have no clue how this will turn out, I can’t really vouch for the recipe below, but I’m sure I will give you an update around Christmas. Also, there are still lots of sloes left, so I might go back and experiment with a second batch.
1 bottle (75cl or 100cl) Gin
About 500 g (1 pound) of sloes
Pick over the sloes to remove any stems and leaves and throw away any bad ones. Wash and dry them.
Spread the sloes on a baking tray and put them into the freezer over night.
Thaw the sloes and prick each one several time with a knife.
Put the sloes and the gin into a large jar and close the lid. Store in a cool, dark place and shake occasionally.
Wait at least three months.
Now you can strain the booze into a clean, separate bottle. You will want to taste your sloe gin at this point, and add sugar syrup as needed.
After only a couple of days, the booze is already deep purple…
Thanks to Sam for the great post and all the excellent photos.