Recipe for Damson Gin
Summer is most definitely over. My husband is just about to give the lawn it’s last trim of the year and put the mower away until next summer. I’ve packed away all our holiday clothes and brought out the heavier quilts and covers, ready for the colder weather to come. I always feel a little sad packing away summer.
Coming from a teaching family and being married to a teacher, for me, summertime has always been a time for being together as a family. This summer I chose not to work as I was changing jobs and preparing for our daughter to go away to a different continent for a year. Even this summer’s absolutely abysmal weather did not prevent it from being idyllic. It’s definitely been a summer that I didn’t want to pack away.
Yet, strangely for such a lover of summer, I welcome autumn. It’s a season that brims with anticipation and new beginnings. I think that that must have something to do with coming from a teaching family as well! As a child, I loved the feeling of opening a brand new exercise book, free from mistakes and red lines. As an adult, I love browsing the Adult Education classes every September, daydreaming about who I might become over the next year, a proficient Argentine Tango dancer or maybe a fluent French speaker at long last.
Anticipation is also to be found in the excitement about gathering the fruits of the harvest. Even though we are having the most beautiful weather for this time of year, there are signs of Autumn’s harvest are everywhere we look. When out walking we can see the trees, abundant with fruit at last, and hedgerows speckled with their beautiful jewelled berries. I’ve already made this year’s damson gin and I’m looking forward to making hedgerow jelly for the first time later this week.
I love damson and sloe gin. I can remember the very first time I tasted sloe gin; I thought I died and gone to heaven. It reminds me of boozy Sunday lunches in Winter and Christmas cocktails with friends. Once I’d been introduced to it, I began making my own every year.
Even though I use the same recipe every year, the results taste very different. I suppose that’s to be expected because no year is exactly the same in terms of weather. I often tast tiny bits throughout the whole brewing time and adjust ingredients to taste.
Anyway, having made this gin, I’m really excited about drinking it!
Recipe for Damson or Sloe Gin
- 1kg damsons or sloes
- 500g caster sugar
- 1 litre gin
- Sterilise the jar in which you are going to make your damson gin.
- Wash damsons, dry and prick each one.
- Put the damsons in the sterilised jar, add the sugar, add the gin. Close the jar tightly. If your jar is small enough shake it vigorously. Otherwise, if your jar is very large, as is mine, stir it very vigorously with a long handled wooden spoon.
- Every day for the next two weeks agitate it with the long wooden spoon. You don’t want to break the fruit down, but you do want to get the whole thing moving. After that stir or shake it once a week.
- Leave it for between 10-12 weeks. After that strain it and put it into sterilised bottles. If you are very strong-willed, leave it to mature for up to 18 months. Otherwise if you make your damson gin now it could just be ready in time for Christmas!
Last word about Sloes
I try to pick my sloes in late October, early November because the conventional wisdom is that sloes are not ready for collecting until there has been a frost. I have to say by that time, most of the sloes are gone from my local bushes. I do still get enough for a litre of sloes gin though. This year, however, I have picked my sloes very early and they are already in the freezer. I picked them early because I read that the wet summer weather had ripened the sloes early. When I looked quite a few were indeed ready. The moral is, just keep checking them and don’t have a hard and fast rule for collecting your sloes.