As you know sloes are the berries of the blackthorn bushes found growing wild in most parts of the country, along hedgerows and by the roadside.
Once blackthorn bushes are found they are kept a secret by some folk so they will have a supply of sloe berries for their gin & whisky making process.
I have to admit I do have a few places I go to collect berries in case some of the bushes I frequent have been used by another picker.
I tend to harvest the berries at the end of September when they are ripe in this part of the country. The berries should be dark in colour with a slight blue sheen over them, any green ones are unripe and should be left alone.
Washed, and ready to weigh into bags. In the early days people would sit with a needle and prick each berry at this stage to allow the skins to split and let the juice from the berry escape....laborious & time consuming work which thankfully I have found that if you freeze the berries for 48 hours, on thawing the skins split apart saving you a lot of time and effort.
The berries I picked last weekend thawed out after being in the freezer all week, note the colour of the juice on the tray, take care when thawing the bags out as it can be messy work and the wife will get irate if you get her kitchen worktop covered in sloe berry juices.
The 4 key ingredients to making sloe whisky or gin.
- Sloe berries
- Whisky / Gin ( doesn't have to be an expensive make as the process changes the taste anyway.)
- Time ( 3 months minimum I work on)