Saturday, 16 November 2013

Sloe & Rose Hip Hedgerow Sour

Aoife, Cambridge 

It's been a wonderful year for fruit and the fruits of the hedgerow are no exception. As the days get shorter and my fingers start to tingle with the cold, the first thing on my mind is the sloe. As I'm sure I have told you many times, picking sloes was my first foraging experience and heading out into the countryside on the hunt for these blue-black jewels is still one of my favourite autumnal rituals. It is a closely guarded secret where I pick my sloes (although that may be just because nobody has asked me) but I will reveal that it is close to where I work. My sloe picking happens on my lunch break and returning to the office laden down with my bounty only confirms my colleagues suspicions that I am a madwoman who thinks about alcohol far too much. More seriously, the fact that in 20 minutes I can walk from an industrial road in a large town to a beautiful open space with hedgerows full of foragable food is proof that foraging is not confined to those living the dream life in the country.

My method for making sloe gin or vodka is very straightforward. First, pick your sloes. When you get them home, wash them and get rid of the leaves and the bits of stalks. Instead of wasting hours of your life piercing them individually simply pop them in the freezer overnight. Once you defrost them the skins will have burst and have done the tedious job for you. I don't tend to add sugar to my sloe spirits anymore. You can always add sugar at the end once they have infused for a few months but I find that they don't necessarily need it (although this is definitely a matter of personal taste). So take your container, fill it about 1/2 to 2/3 with sloes and then it the rest of the way with your choice of spirit. I like to do both a sloe vodka batch and a sloe gin batch. I think vodka lets the sloe flavour come through slightly better but if you like gin then the extra botanicals are always going to be welcome. I leave it for between 3 and 6 months before I strain out the sloes and bottle the liqour. It's best left for another few months to mature in the bottle although if you have self control (unlike me) you can leave it for years and discover how the flavours change. One of my favourite ways to enjoy sloe gin is just straight up in a small pretty glass. Its warming glow improves even the most depressing Sunday afternoon.

I wrote last Autumn about making rose hip cordial and this year I have been at it again. I just can't resist it's aromatic, citrus flavour. The jug pictured at the top shows this years batch in all its glory. Rose hip cordial is a wonderful mixed with sparkling water or used in baking and cooking but predictably my favourite use for it is as a cocktail ingredient. I couldn't resist using my two hedgerow products together to create my go-to cocktail: a sour.

hedgerow sour

60mL sloe gin or vodka
30mL fresh lemon juice
15mL rose hip cordial
frozen sloes to garnish

If you have added sugar to your sloe gin or are using a sweet commercial variety you may want to increase the proportion of lemon juice you use. Combine all of the ingredients in a cocktail shaker or large glass. Add plenty of ice. Stir for a minutes. Strain into a prepared glass. Garnish with some frozen sloes (I always try to keep a few back when I am making my sloe gin). This cocktail also works well served over crushed ice.

You can hear me talking about sloe gin on Flavour on Cambridge 105 today at 12pm.

1 comment:

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