An ancestor of the cultivated plum, the sloe or blackthorn is best known for the excellent liqueur, sloe gin. A wonderfully vibrant pink coloured drink much favoured at Christmas when the berries will have infused sufficiently well with the gin and sugar.
The sloe or blackthorn shrub can be found throughout the British Isles, most commonly found in woodland and hedgerows it can grow to a height of twelve feet. Look out for the flowers from March to May and pick the fruit from late September to October. When making sloe gin it is important for the gin to permeate the skin of the fruit so it is worth waiting for the first frosts to soften the skin although pricking the fruit is still advisable.
As with other wild plum like fruits they are usually too bitter to eat raw, they benefit from gentle cooking with plenty of sugar to make an agreeable tart or pie.
Sloe and Apple Jelly
(for rabbit, hare and game)
A very simple recipe, measure out equal quantities of ripe sloes and green apples, place in a pan and cover with cold water. Cook until the fruits are soft; pour into a jelly bag and leave to drip for a few hours. Measure the juice. For every 1-pint or 600 ml of juice add 1lb or 500g of sugar. Bring to the boil stirring the sugar regularly. Boil hard until setting point is reached and pour into warm jars.