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Autumn, Food & Drink

How to Make Sloe Gin

sloes

Want to know how to make sloe gin? I’ve got a really handy recipe for you.

Sloe berries have always proved quite elusive to me. I’ve never managed to hunt any down in any of my autumn foraging.  And trust me, I do a lot of foraging!  I’m sure they’re there, hiding from me, but until I do come across them then I’m saving sloe recipes to my computer left right and centre. Like this great recipe card showing how to make sloe gin that I’m sharing with you today!  

how to make sloe gin

One sloe recipe that I’ve come across is for easy sloe gin, by graphic designer and illustrator Lucy Davidson.  Lucy is the author of one of my favourite craft blogs – Peas and Needles.  Lucy has made sloe gin and created a handy illustrated sloe gin recipe card, which she has kindly let me share with Moral Fibres readers today.

How to Make Sloe Gin

what to make with sloe berries

You Will Need

  • 1 lbs sloes
  • 8 oz caster sugar
  • 1 litre gin

Method

  • To make sloe gin, [rick the tough skins of the sloes all over and put them in a large sterilised jar (see my guide on how to sterilise jars).
  • Pour in the sugar and the gin. Seal tightly and shake well.
  • Store in a cool, dark cupboard and shake every other day for at least a week. Then shake once a week for at least two months.
  • After two months (or longer for a stronger taste), strain the sloe gin through muslin into a sterilised bottle.

I’m looking forward to trying this when I do track down some sloes!  I do love a bit of sloe gin!

If you’re out foraging for sloes (hopefully you’ll have better luck than me!) then here are some tips for finding and picking sloes. It’s important to note that sloes should be picked after the first frost. The cold softens their skins, helping them to release their juices. You can get around this by freezing an early picking of sloes overnight.

Let me know in the comments below if you’d had any luck foraging for sloes, and if you try out this recipe!  You can also tweet me your photos on Twitter or share with me on Facebook so I can live vicariously through you!

All images courtesy of Lucy Davidson.

Autumn, Food & Drink

Elderberry Syrup Recipe – How To Forage and Make This Autumn

freshly picked elderberries

Today let me show you how to make elderberry syrup, with this very favourite recipe of mine that I turn to year after year.

The Elder is my most favourite of trees.  In the summer the Elder blooms with the most delicious flowers.  These flowers can be used in a whole manner of ways, such as this boozy elderflower cordial recipe.  And then, in Autumn, the Elder offers up another tasty bounty when they positively drip with elderberries.  These are also delicious when cooked or prepared into elderberry syrup – but do see my safety note below before you eat any.

homemade elderberry syrup recipe

When Are Elderberries in Season?

Elderberries are in season from, depending on where you are, roughly mid-September to mid-October.  

What Makes Elderberry Syrup Good For You?

Elderberries may be diminutive in size, but they pack a mighty punch.  Elderberries are rich in Vitamin A and B and are richer in Vitamin C than oranges.  This makes them a great natural cold and flu remedy.  

Last winter I was plagued with the cold and flu.  This year I thought I’d make an elderberry syrup to help ward off any pesky bugs over this coming winter.  I added some extra vitamin C in the form of oranges and lemons just for good measure.

I have found dried elderberries online*, which can also be used, but for fresh elderberries you’ll have to go out and pick your own.  Luckily the countryside is bursting with elderberries at the moment.  Just get out there with a bag and a pair of scissors and snip bunches of the blackest juiciest berries you can find.  It’s pretty easy to spot them, but if you’re unsure ask a local expert.

Freshly picked elderberries

My freshly picked and de-stalked elderberries

A Word of Warning

First, a very important word of warning before making elderberry syrup.  Elderberries, their stems, and their leaves are toxic when raw. So do not be tempted to eat any whilst you pick.  They contain cyanide and can cause sickness.  Thankfully when you cook the berries they lose their toxicity.  You are doubly safe with this recipe as it calls for the berries and their juice to be cooked twice!

Picking the berries for your elderberry syrup recipe is the easy part.  Once you’ve picked your berries you’ll need to remove them from their stalks.  The best way to do this is to comb through the stalks with a fork into a bowl.  When you’ve removed all the berries from the stalks you’ll find that quite a few berries still have little stalks on them. Unfortunately, these have to be removed too, along with any unripe berries. This is quite a long and tedious job – it took me the best part of an hour going through all the berries with a fine-tooth comb.  However, do persevere as the elderberry syrup is well worth this initial toil.

best elderberry syrup recipe
5 from 2 votes
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Delicious Spiced Elderberry Syrup

This deliciously spiced elderflower cordial can be served in a multitude of ways – drizzled into oatmeal/porridge, diluted in hot water for a warming drink, served with soda, and more. What’s more, it’s got amazing cold and flu prevention properties!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • Fresh elderberries as many as you can pick – I filled one carrier bag
  • A lemon
  • An orange
  • Brown sugar muscovado or demerara
  • Cloves
  • Cinnamon sticks
  • Sterilised glass bottles and tops.

Instructions

  1. Give your berries a good wash, and cover yourself up with an apron or wear old clothes as the berries can stain like mad.
  2. Next place your berries in a stainless steel pan with half of their volume of water, and simmer for 20 minutes. Don’t allow to boil or you’ll remove some of the goodness from the berries. While they are simmering it’s good to give them a mash with a stainless steel potato masher or the back of a metal spoon to help release the berry juices. Don’t use wooden utensils unless you want them to be stained purple forever more!
  3. Pass the mixture through a fine stainless steel sieve into a bowl, and allow to sit for 15 minutes or so to allow all of the liquid to drip out. Use a metal spoon to push down on the berries to ensure as much water and juice is pressed out of the berries:
  4. Measure your elderberry liquid – for every 500ml of liquid you have add 250g of sugar, a few slices of lemon, a few slices of orange, a few cloves and one cinnamon stick to a stainless steel pan, and then add your liquid.
  5. Stir and then let simmer for 20 minutes (my kitchen smelled like Christmas at this point, it was amazing!) and then pass it through the sieve to remove the fruit, cinnamon and cloves.
  6. Place in a sterilised glass bottle (I filled a 500ml bottle) and enjoy whenever you feel a cold coming on or just when you fancy it. I would serve diluted with hot water as a tasty winter warmer. It has a lovely earthy flavour, and the spice and citrus give it that extra sweet edge:
elderberry-syrup-recipe

This winter I also plan on enjoying the elderberry syrup as a hot toddy with a shot of whisky and hot water!  I’m looking forward to that on a cold evening, let me tell you!  Alternatively, you could drizzle over plain yoghurt or porridge, or even over ice cream or pancakes.  The possibilities of the syrup are endless!  I’m going to make at least double the amount of elderberry syrup next year as we polished ours off pretty quickly!

Will you be elderberry picking this weekend?

ps: you might also enjoy this guide to edible flowers.