Use wild damsons or sloes to make tasty gin
A great way to make use of wild damsons, or sloes. We have ample of both here in Pitstone, near Tring, Herts. In fact the area is famous for them! The Aylesbury prune I think it is called.
To make about 1 litre:
450g damsons or sloes, pricked
225g sugar (or 450g for sloe gin)
Wash the fruit and prick if not picked after the first frosts (a frost softens the fruit and gives a kick start to releasing the juices). Put the damsons or sloes into a large bottle and tip over the sugar. Pour in the gin and then shake well to mix the fruit in with it.
You will then need to shake daily for about a week to prevent the sugar settling in the bottom. Then shake regularly and taste if you like for the next 6-8 weeks. Once you have a good flavour and all the fruit juices have instilled, strain the mixture through a fine sieve and pour the liquor into bottles.
Try and leave the gin for 12-18 months before drinking, so it won’t be ready this Christmas, but maybe next year. So always have a batch in hand!
Another thing I enjoy at this time of year is gathering all that the hedgerows have to offer, to make into lovely jams, jellies, syrups and pickles. The kitchen has never been used so much in the past few weeks!
After making some chutneys as reported in previous posts, I’ve also tried my hand at jams and jellies. The abundance of blackberries we have (garden and hedgerow) has been excellent for stocking up our storecupboard with jars of jam and blackberry liquer (looking forward to tasting that!). Some elderberries may have found their way in too! I gathered some rowan berries the other week also, to turn into jelly. The juice has been extracted (although couldn’t resist squeezing the bag to get more juice, oh well, cloudy jelly), and just have to boil up with some sugar to make the jelly. I’m told this is good with game, particularly venison, one of my faves.
Damson gin is also happily getting ready for Christmas (although perhaps not this year). I have tried two recipes, so after some no doubt enjoyable tastings, will let you know which one is best. A few of you may be thinking this is normally made with sloes, but again I am told damson gin is a worthy alternative.
Talking of sloes, I finally found some in the hedgerows last night (whilst on a lovely evening walk). They are very soft and squidgy so will be excellent for gin, but now I have damson on the go I might try and do something else with the sloes. Any ideas? They are in the freezer at the moment, so we will see what they look like when they come out.
The other thing I spied last night that I would like to make use of is lots of lovely rosehips. I’ll be going back shortly to gather some for syrup. This will be good to have in the cupboard for winter colds etc, as is packed with Vitamin C!