This is where I note my efforts as I try to recreate some old recipes. Most are taken from my small collection of handwritten recipe books which date from the late 1700's to around 1922. I also have a collection of old tatty old recipe books, well thumbed and heavily splashed from years of use. I love them all!

The old-fashioned very stylised handwriting writing is sometimes difficult to decipher, measurements and cooking instructions are minimal, no tin sizes given. Luckily I enjoy a challenge. Just to complicate things I cook and bake on my wood-fired Rayburn, which can be... unpredictable.

I suspect this blog is less about the food and more about my passion for these lovely old books and the wonderful women who wrote them.

Monday, 5 September 2016

Gin and Sloes

Take one large bottle of gin, some sugar, a couple of drops of almond extract, and some sloes...

It is time to get the sloe gin made, if you want it to be ready for the end of December and those cold winter evenings.

Yesterday, as I walked Dobson around the local fields, I noticed some large and very ripe sloes.   Today I harvested them.

By the time I had cleaned them, picked them over and washed them, there remained a pound and half of the beauties, exactly the right amount for using up the litre of gin which Miles and Poppy gave to us a couple of months ago.

Everyone has a slightly different recipe but the basic ingredients are gin, sloes, sugar, almonds or almond extract, some don't bother with either.

Sterilise a wide-mouthed  jar by washing in hot water and rinsing well, then place on a baking tray in an oven which has been preheated to approx 120 C, keep it in there for approx 15 minutes.   (The rubber seal should be sterilised in boiling water, not the oven.)

Clean and wash your sloes, discard any wrinkled or bad ones.  Some people prick them with a fork, others don't bother.     Put the sloes into the sterilised jar, add the sugar, the almond extract and the gin.  Seal the jar.

Give it a shake, every day or so, until the sugar has dissolved.   Keep it in a cool, dark cupboard.   In December it should be ready to be enjoyed.

A winter delight.

(I used one litre gin, one and a half pounds of sloes, six ounces of sugar and three drops of really good almond extract.   When we sample it in a couple of months, I will add more sugar if necessary but I don't want it to be too sweet this time.)


  1. Question, what exactly are sloes? They look like a sort of plum . I always thought they were a berry. Suppose I should google. Once you've got the sloes and the gin it looks dead easy. I love these homemade liqueurs. Any that I don't like (one with mandarines I remember) are great in cakes and cooking.

  2. Sloes, wild plums, wild damsons and bullaces are all distantly related. Sloes are usually marble-sized, taste so tart that you couldn't eat them and are very closely attached to a thorny branch. Bullaces are a bit larger, I believe, but I'm afraid I get a bit hazy about the differences. Sloes and bullaces are round, plums are oval and usually a bit larger... Blackberry vodka or brandy is the next one on my list.

  3. Now remember my mother making that, rember it being thick, sweet & strong

    1. Hi Bill, It is definitely all of those. The sad thing is that I can't actually drink them as I get severe migraines; Max doesn't suffer from that problem though nor do the family! I love the process of filling up the pantry shelves with homemade treats for the winter months, I am a squirrel at heart.

  4. Ooh interesting. I've been making sloe gin for years, but I've never heard of adding almonds before. If I get around to picking any sloes this year, I'll try that.

    1. Hello Choclette, I'll let you know! The really old recipes often call for a few bitter almonds to be added to these drinks, so I guess it must add a certain something...here's hoping, anyway.