Like so many of the finer things, the real problem with sloe gin is that it takes longer (far longer) to make than it does to consume. The waiting is arguably half the fun, and nature does seem to have planned things pretty well – the berries of the blackthorn bush are ripe for picking here in the UK when they begin to show their true blue colours after the first frosts of October. Much faffing with a needle to prick the skin of each berry, followed by three months in the company of some gin and some sugar, and your hit of syrupy, sharp alcohol is ready just in time for the holiday season (or, if you’re really patient, the following winter).
That’s all well and good, but not ideal when your kitchen is calling out for the stuff right here, right now. In our case, we’ve been searching for a filling for a signature Allium chocolate – to serve at the end of the meal in the restaurant and also sell in Deli Allium – for some time now. After roadtesting a few ideas and mulling over countless others, the notion of a chocolate filled with a classic British liqueur created with a foraged ingredient was a clear winner. But with no sloe gin from the previous year to hand, and buying in the commercially made stuff too much of a cop-out, our options were limited.
Or they would be if we, like everyone else in the blogosphere, hadn’t been so fired up by the rapid cavitation-based infusion technique discussed over on the excellent Cooking Issues website a short while back. It’s a ridiculously simple trick that can yield ridiculously great results using nothing more complex than a cream whipper. Best of all, it takes no time at all.
But could it really give results as good as an extraction technique that spans two whole months? Amazingly, yes. Any worries that the finer subtleties – in particular the almond notes provided by the stone – would fail to come through or that the skin’s tannins would come through too well were quickly dispelled as we tasted the results. Repeatedly. Some may regard this shortcut as heresy. But as heresies go, this one’s kind of moreish…
QUICK SLOE GIN RECIPE
Equipment: cream whipper, N2o canisters, muslin/superbag
Ingredients: 375g gin (or vodka, if you prefer), 375g freshly picked sloe berries, around 150g caster sugar
- Place gin and sloes in the cream whipper. No pricking of sloes required.
- Screw on whipper top. Charge with 3 or 4 canisters, shaking well.
- Leave for 20-30 minutes. Slowly expel gas and unscrew top. Pour contents into a container.
- Add sugar to taste and gently stir. (Be aware that the gin will become sweeter and smoother over time, so don’t get too heavy handed.) As you stir, the sugar will dissolve and the sloes break down further. Don’t stir so hard that you bruise the skins too much or this will make the results more tannic.
- Leave overnight if you wish to thicken further (the alcohol will continue to draw the pectins of the fruit out), then strain. Add more gin to dilute or sugar to sweeten, if desired. You can throw away the solids, or using the gin-infused flesh for other recipes.