Foragers’ favourite homemade liqueurs

Sloe gin
Sloe berries from the blackthorn tree make a delicious liqueur when added to your favourite gin

HOMEMADE LIQUEURS are an easy and fast way for foragers to use wild fruits that are often ignored, like sloe berries, or an interesting way to use traditional favourites, like blackberries.

We’ve just made a bottle each of sloe gin and blackberry whiskey which, if I can control my thirst, are scheduled for consumption in Christmas 2017.

Planning ahead for homemade liqueurs

Homemade boozy drinks usually need a minimum of two months before they are ready to drink so I’d would suggest that you plan ahead.

We had blackberries stored in the freezer since the autumn. The blackberry season seemed very short this year so we only have a handful of bags of about 300g each.

Sloe gin
Sloe berries ready for gin

The sloes, which come from the blackthorn tree, were picked last week on a frosty November morning. It’s said that you’re best off waiting until the first hard frost to pick these small bitter, blackcurrant-like berries because the drop in temperature causes the skins to soften, making them ideal for using in gin.

However, in the past, we’ve lost patience waiting for a hard frost, gone ahead and picked the sloes and just kept them in the freezer for a few days. The first time we made sloe gin using the freezer method, we used a needle to break the skin of every single berry, which is time-consuming, even if you have a small, enthusiastic assistant, so I’d prefer to wait for the frost now.

Homemade sloe gin recipe

I can’t remember the origins of the sloe gin recipe I use, but I’ve written it on the back of my Collins gem Food for Free book.

This recipe calls for 450g sloes plus 225g caster sugar and a litre of gin. Add your berries to a sterilised bottle, top with the sugar and then pour in the gin (a funnel is invaluable for this job).

sloe gin
Kitchen team-work

Sloes were hard to find this year, so we ended up mixing 400g of fruit with 200g of sugar and we didn’t bother measuring the gin, just filling the bottle up close to the top. We didn’t, but you can also add a small amount of almonds to the mix.

When the bottle was sealed, we all gave it a good shake (I was being assisted by 8-year-old Becca and her dad John) before putting it in a cool, dry place. Hopefully, we will remember to give it an occasional shake until the sugar is completely dissolved.

Sloe gin has a beautiful deep pink colour and is delicious with your favourite mixer (mine is tonic water). If you can find a blackthorn tree that isn’t on a busy road (traffic fumes are best avoided) then it’s worth having a go at making this liqueur, which also makes a lovely gift.

Blackberry Whiskey (or brandy) recipe

The recipe for blackberry whiskey (or brandy, if you prefer) requires the same measurements as sloe gin, ie half the amount sugar to your fruit.

Blackberry whiskey
Frozen blackberries

In our case, we had our 300g bag of blackberries, which we defrosted while making the sloe gin. After popping in the blackberries into a sterilised bottle we added 150g of caster sugar and then poured in the whiskey until it almost reached the top.

If you have a favourite whiskey, then that’s the one you should use. Again, give it a solid shake and store in a dark, dry place. I have yet to decide on the best mixer for a blackberry whiskey, but if I manage to make it to Christmas 2017 without opening the bottle it’ll probably be a drop of hot water, for my cold bones you understand….!

And finally, a bit more about homemade liqueurs…

There is almost no work in making your own homemade liqueurs – just picking the fruit and buying the alcoholic beverage of your choice. If you have a recipe that you think we should try out, and if you want to share it, then please get in touch via our blog. Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter and tell your friends about our blog!

You might also like to have a look at some recipes for homemade drinks that I read about on The Guardian website.

We’ve been sharing lots of recipes over the past few months for all kinds of drinks, like lemonade, blackcurrant cordial, as well as health-boosting syrups made from elderberries and rosehips.

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