It’s coming to sloe season and some areas may be overflowing with the glorious fulsome purple fruit in hedgerows. There is a common misconception that you can only pick sloes after the first frost but there is no real reason for this unlike say harvesting parsnips after the first frost which turns some starches to sugars. Easiest way to test the berries are ripe is to carefully pick one and see if they are full and plump with bright green flesh inside.
Sadly all the local sloe bushes have been hacked back leaving little if any to forage this year so I have few images to share on the process. Never fear as I picked about three billion last year to make sloe gin and sloe wine, I cracked open a one of the wines recently for a test… and to get quiet drunk.
Sloe wine has bit of a stigma but for no good reason in my view. The fruit are sour but they age beautifully giving a rich distinctive taste ideal as a winter warmer. I particularly hate mulled wine and this in my view is far nicer with an aromatic perfume like nose and rich mouth feel. Just like good sloe gin it needs an age to mature though. I opened one after a year and it is nice but another year in the bottle will easily help it along. Over time the gritty fleshiness from the flesh will sink either in bulk ageing or in the bottle. It sits happily at the bottom so do not think it is bacteria spoilage or excessive tannin.
Sloes often ripen as the same time as elderberries or soon after so you can combine the recipes easily. Last year I did one pure sloe with a raisin body and another with second run elderberries to add body. Only time will tell which is my preferred method but I suspect it will be the 500g of elder skins that give a rounder fuller taste. As sloes are quite grape like they do not need acid or tannin added. Sugar content can be high but some will need to be added.
Once the wine has been racked into secondary you can reuse the sloes for a second run wine, making some very rich chutney of the pass through a sieve to remove the stones or rinsing and using in sloe gin to create a slightly differing but no worse taste.
SLOE WINE – 4.5L
Suitable yeasts – Lavlin 71B, RC212 or Vintners Harvest R56
300g chopped raisins or equivelent of elder skins
800g Sugar – to 1.09SG
- Pick and freeze the sloes for at least a week to break down pectin.
- Cold soak for at least 3 days and up to 5 with as much of the water as you can. Keep below 15 degrees C
- Boil the rest of the water and add the raisins or elder skins and let cool in time for…
- Mash the sloes in the water with sterilised potato masher, then add the cooled water add pectolase and leave for 24 hours (no need to remove the sloe stones)
- Add the sugar, yeast and nutrient.
- Cover in primary for 5 or 6 days or until SG reaches 1.01
- Squeeze sloes thoroughly and rack into secondary.
- rack after two month, then every three months after that.
- Try to bulk age for nine months to lket the fruit pulp settle
- Bottle and leave for a year!
Takes 2 Years to fully mature from pitch to pop.