Came across a good patch of blackthorn with a good number of sloes, quite a rarity around here. Having seen branches drooping with ones in south Gloucestershire a few weeks back, at a time when we couldn't stop, I was glad of the find. There are lots of blackthorn bushes in the area, but they crop very lightly or, more often, not at all. I think the free-draining gravel soil means that there is little lime available, which stops the kernel forming properly in stone fruit.
I managed to pick about a kilo before the dogs got too bored, more than I needed for the nearly full bottle of gin that has been on the shelf for rather too long now.
Most recipes seem to agree on 1 lb of sloes to 75ml bottle of gin. I prefer to infuse the fruit without sugar, adding after the liquid has been decanted around Christmas time. I don't bother to prick or freeze the fruit, they were very squashy and the cell walls will break down with time.
Here's the recipe written properly
450 g (1 lb) sloes
75 ml gin or vodka (cheapest possible)
300-400g (12-14 oz) sugar
1. Rinse a clean demi-john with campden tablets.
2. Add fruit, sugar and gin, fasten down with a solid bung.
3. Leave for three months, checking and giving a shake once a week or so.
4. Drain fluid into clean demi-john. Taste and add more sugar if necessary, and leave to dissolve for a few days. Decant into a sterilised bottle.