With so many orders for Christmas Door Wreaths and other seasonal decorations this is probably my busiest time of the year and I’m out in my workshop all day long.
While the weather is getting colder and colder, I don’t have any heating out there; even if I wanted to, that’s the lot of a florist, keeping the flowers nice and cool! But when I come indoors, usually after dark,
I head straight for the comfy chair in front of the wood burner with a steaming cuppa or better still, a glass of homemade sloe gin which can be equally as warming!
Sloe is the fruit of the blackthorn, which blossoms white in early spring. It has fearsome thorns on its very dark branches, to protect it from grazing animals, and the wood has traditionally been used to make walking sticks and riding crops. The bitter fruit is usually ripe and ready to pick in October.
The best time to make sloe gin is when the sloes have had a good frost (failing this you can always pop them in the freeze overnight!) because, in theory, the frost splits the skins to release juices and saves you having to prick each berry by hand….
Along with sloes, I like to add other foraged berries to make a rather nice ‘hedgerow’ gin which is great for using up those odd amounts left in boxes in the freezer taking up space, and add some spices to create a real winter warmer.
Here is my recipe Garden Gate Hedgerow Gin:
70cl bottle of gin (approx. 675ml)
75g caster sugar4 star anise OR a cinnamon stick & 2-3 cloves (whichever you prefer)
Simply put the frozen fruit into a wide-necked jar with the sugar and spices, pour in the gin, put the lid on tight and give it a good shake. Repeat the shaking daily, for a week, and watch the colour change to a beautiful reddish-purple and all the sugar dissolve. After that, hide it away in a cool dark place until Christmas, or better still until next autumn. When ready to drink, strain it, add more sugar if necessary, stirring well to dissolve, bottle it and enjoy. (If you don’t like gin, you could try vodka or sherry.)
Homemade sloe gin or hedgerow gin is also fab as a long drink in the summer with tonic, ice and a slice, but roll on frosty morning walks to collect those gorgeous dusty blue/black sloes. Just make sure you leave plenty for the wildlife to help keep them warm through the winter too. Cheers!
Garden Gate Flowers