Blackthorn Sloe Gin

Recipe from Frank Stark
Submitted by Acair Books


1 lb sloes
½ lb sugar
1 litre gin


Place the sloes in a 1.5 litre sealed Kilner jar. Add the sugar and gin. Invert the container occasionally and wait. Simples. Eventually your clear Gordon’s will become a beautiful pink hue with a delicious flavour. If you prefer something a bit sweeter, then add a syrup made by dissolving sugar in some warm water.

Some years ago in Lewis I was photographing waxwings on the old Marybank-Lewis castle college road. As I watched the birds feeding on hawthorn and whitebeam berries I happened to notice a couple of blue-black sloes on a neighbouring blackthorn bush. It kindled old memories of autumn days in the Lothians when family members collected these fruits to make jam, wine and, particularly, to flavour gin. Old habits die hard and when the waxwings left the hedgerow to quench their thirst I smartly walked in and plucked the two sloes from the bush.

Sadly I was unable to find any more in the area and given the scarcity of woods and hedges on Lewis there was a distinct possibility I had just collected the island’s whole harvest. Not nearly enough for the amount of hooch I had in mind. I decided then that blackthorn was an obvious candidate for inclusion among the plants to grow on the piece of land set aside for my wild-life meadow project.

As that is still a work in progression I have to collect the fruit on my annual autumn journeys to old southern haunts where the bushes and berries are abundant. The small purplish drupe is the ancestor of our cultivated plums but it is acidic and astringent and its taste, if you care to experiment, will linger with you for a long time.

They are best gathered after a hard frost, but if this is not possible place them in a freezer immediately after they have been collected. This means you can make the gin whenever it is convenient and also avoid the tedious task of pricking each sloe with a needle.

Wild LewisFrank Stark is the author of Wild Lewis: A’ Mhòinteach Mhòr, a wonderful photographic safari of the largest island in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland – just a sample of the stunning combination of wildlife that can be viewed at few other locations on the planet. This north-western corner of Europe, perched on the edge of the ocean, is a unique mix of geography and biodiversity that has inspired naturalists and poets for centuries. The bilingual text gives an added richness to this visually stunning collection.

Frank Gault is published by Acair Books.