Submitted by Margaret from Crackpot
Blackthorn bushes are found all around Swaledale and are the earliest hedgerow shrubs to flower in April and May before their leaves arrive. The small black fruit are known as sloes and are great for making sloe gin. They shouldn’t be eaten raw as they can be poisonous in large quantities but since they are incredibly tart, I don’t think most people even manage one. Traditionally they were picked after a frost had sweetened them but putting them into the freezer achieves the same result. My recipe for sloe gin comes courtesy of Martha Woodford, a former long-time resident of Ambridge. A by-product of making sloe gin is the alcohol infused fruit left over after decanting. You can use them for a boozy crumble but I stone and puree the fruit and mix with chocolate and cream to make truffles. Both recipes can also be adapted for use with damsons which produces a slightly sweeter gin.
Martha’s sloe gin
- 500g (1lb) sloes
- 180g (6 oz) sugar
- 1 litre gin
- Prick the sloes with a needle so that the juices will leach out into the gin. A quicker option, which many recommend, is to freeze the sloes and bash them with a rolling pin to bruise the flesh but I find it leaves the gin cloudy
- Fill a 2 litre kilner jar ( or equivalent glass storage jar ) with the sloes, add the sugar and top with the gin
- Shake the jar daily for a week to help the sugar dissolve then store in a cool dark place for 3 months. Shake the jar occasionally
- Strain through muslin or a filter (wine or coffee filters will do) into clean bottles (I save the original gin bottles)
- The sloes can be stoned for further use – this takes some time!
- The sloe gin improves with keeping although if kept too long the ruby hue will become more tawny. Making one year for consumption the following year normally works.
Sloe gin truffles
- 56g/2 oz unsalted butter
- 170ml/6fl oz double cream
- 450g/16 oz good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacoa)
- 350g/12 oz stoned sloes ground to a paste
- 4 tbsp sloe gin
- Unsweetened cocoa powder
- Line a Swiss roll tin with baking parchment/ lightly greased greaseproof paper.
- Place butter and cream in a small saucepan and bring slowly to the boil, stirring constantly. Boil for one minute then remove from the heat.
- Break up chocolate and add to the mixture and stir to melt it.
- Add the sloe paste and gin
- Pour mixture into swiss roll tin and cool
- Once cold, use a melon baller or a teaspoon to scoop out balls from the tray and drop into a bowl of cocoa powder to coat.
- I tend to do a few at a time returning the tray to the fridge as once it gets warm, your hands soon get messy
These can be kept in the fridge for a few weeks or frozen until required. Thawed truffles can look a bit dull so I tend to recoat in fresh cocoa powder.