Sloe gin is the classic tipple for your hip flask, but over the last few years we have been making new wild liqueurs ourselves and have been given some great ideas by friends too.
Last week we tasted a ‘Duke of Northumberland’ it’s a really warming winter tot, full of fruity sweetness but with the glow of whisky too. The recipe is equal parts cherry brandy and whisky in the hip flask together.
It’s the time of year for drinking liqueurs really rather than making them but hopefully these recipes will stay in your mind until the fruit is back in season.
You can use sloes or damsons for this recipe: damson gin is fruitier than sloe gin.
Damsons ripen before sloes usually in August – September, sloes from September onwards. They say that the sloes are better after the first frosts. (the frost sweetens and intensifies the flavour) If you can’t wait for a frost you can always freeze the fruit at home.
Sloe Gin (or Damson Gin)
1.25 kg sloes or damsons
half tsp almond extract (extract in alcohol)
1.65 ltr gin (approx)
It is important to get the almond extract that has an alcohol base and not an oil base, as you might guess the oil based extract just sits on the top of the liqueur and does not mix in.
Wash the fruit and remove any stalks. Prick each fruit 3 or 4 times with a pin and put in a large storage jar. Add the sugar, almond extract and gin and stir it every hour until the sugar is dissolved. Stir every day for a week and then every week until the gin is ready… probably just before Christmas.
Check the sweetness before you bottle the gin, if you want to sweeten it add caster sugar to taste.
Remove the fruit from the gin then strain it through a very fine mesh sieve or muslin. This removes any tiny particles and stops sediment forming in the bottles. Now bottle the gin, it can be drunk straight away but improves with keeping.
75cl blended Whisky,
Wash the blackberries and put them into a large bottle or jar. Add the whisky and sugar. Shake or stir to dissolve the sugar and leave in a dark place for a month. Once a week stir or shake the whisky to help extract the flavour from the fruit. After a month taste the whisky to check for flavour and sweetness.
The flavour of your blackberry whisky will vary from year to year as the fruit varies. You can easily sweeten the liqueur by stirring in some caster sugar. If there is not enough blackberry flavour add some frozen berries and leave for another week or two. When you ready to bottle the whisky remove the blackberries and strain the whisky through a very fine mesh sieve or muslin.
Don’t throw away the blackberries they are gorgeous mixed with cooking apples in a crumble or in cakes or winter trifles.
We use wild cherries but you do not have to, cultivated cherries are fine too. Cherries differ in sweetness often from one tree to the next and in some years they are sweeter than others. Although you shouldn’t use bitter cherries don’t worry too much as the sweetness of the finished liqueur can be adjusted at the end.
700g wild cherries
Wash and dry the cherries then cut them in half, leaving the stones in one half. Put the cherries into a wide necked bottle or jar and add the brandy, vodka and sugar. Shake or stir the ingredients to dissolve the sugar then leave in a cool dark cupboard for a couple of months. Shake the jar every week or so to help the flavour come out of the cherries then when the two months is up check the taste. Adjust the sweetness if necessary by adding caster sugar and then remove the cherries and strain the liqueur through muslin to remove any fine particles.
You can use the cherries in all sorts of desserts, they go very well with chocolate, ice cream, cheesecake etc. or you can use them in savoury dishes for example with duck or other game meat.