Whether you’ve foraged heaps of sloes or are looking for a way to make use of leftover, gin-soaked sloe berries, here are five delicious ideas for handmade Christmas gifts.
Making your own sloe gin is one of the autumn’s most decadent traditions – but for those looking to take advantage of the seasonal harvest, sloe gin isn’t the beginning and end of what you can do with hedgerow fruits. From jam to chocolates, cordial to “slider” – yes, that’s cider infused with sloe berries – here are five delicious ways to put your sloes, whether freshly foraged or retrieved from your finished sloe gin to good use. Add a bit of pretty packaging, and you’ll have some Christmas-ready gifts to hand, too.
1. Sloe Jam
A jar of sloe jam isn’t just a gorgeous seasonal treat – it’s also an ideal stocking stuffer. Happily, it’s quite simple to make, too. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s recipe for Hedgerow Jelly is a traditional favourite; sloe berries are combined with other hand-foraged picks – including rosehips, crab apples, and rowanberries – for a cold weather indulgence. Other recipes put the focus squarely on dark, plummy sloe berries. However you choose to make your sloe jam, this is one the quickest and simplest ways to take advantage of your foraged haul.
2. Sloe Chocolates
It always strikes us as a shame to bin our gin-soaked sloe berries once our sloe gin has finished infusing. Much better, we think, to turn leftover sloes into moreish chocolates. It’s a simple enough proposition: remove any remaining pips from your berries, lay them in a single layer on a lined baking sheet, and dust with cinnamon and orange zest. Melt good-quality chocolate in a double boiler and pour over the berries until well coated. Leave to chill in the freezer until they’re set. These are sure to go quickly.
Sloe gin isn’t the beginning and end of what you can do with hedgerow fruits.
3. Sloe Brandy (or Sherry)
Happily, leftover berries from sloe gin can also be used to re-macerate in other spirits. Brandy is a fine and Christmassy choice: leave yours to steep with 500g of leftover sloe gin berries, red wine, and a wee bit of sugar. In a month or two, you’ll have another burgundy-hued treat to toast with this winter. Gin-soaked berries can also be added, with a bit of sugar, to a bottle of good-quality sherry, in what’s sure to make for a well-received gift.
4. Sloe Cordial
Fancy a sloe tipple – sans alcohol? For a break in the festive sipping, a dose of sloe cordial still supplies that rich, wintertime flavour, and as an added advantage, it requires much less time to prepare. Boil your sloes with water, sugar, and lemon juice, before cooling and straining into prepared bottles. Of course, you can also use sloe cordial as a gin cocktail ingredient – we won’t tell if you don’t.
5. Sloe Cider
“Slider” may not be the most elegant of names, and this one is a project for only the most devoted sloe artisans – but when it’s well made, sloe cider can be a real treat. The pros make theirs in large, glass demijohns, infusing cider with gin-soaked sloe berries for roughly a month and a half, or until the resulting mixture is light pink and tastes of dark fruit and almonds (the latter of which is imparted by the pips).