Can you smell it? The change in the air? That’s autumn that is, just around the corner. I love this time of year, when early morning and evening give just a hint of the chill to come, and it’s almost, but not quite, time to get out the jumpers, the boots and the cosy hats and scarves.
With the kids being back-to-school, and our next few weekends being spoken for, we took the opportunity to enjoy the little bit of summer sun still coming our way and do our annual trip into the Warwickshire countryside to hunt for blackberries.
The place we got to, year after year, is a tiny hamlet just outside of Stratford. It has an ancient church, a few old cottages and a river running through it.
The light there is superb. Through the canopies of hawthorn, bramble and wild rose you catch glimpses of the river and river folk, hear the murmur of voices in the distance and the drone of insects drawn to the bounty weighing down the branches.
Each year we go the experience is slightly different. Last year the cold and the wet meant we had no blackberries at all, but the damson and sloe trees were overloaded with fruit, ripe to bursting point. This year we found only a small bowlful of sloes, but the blackberries!
blackberries waiting to be picked. The blackberries were dark and ripe and sweet and we came back with enough to contemplate blackberry jam and perhaps, perhaps the chance to experiment with my new toy and see whether blackberry ice cream is as good as it sounds….
Usually we come back from our foraging with enough sloes, damsons, elderberries and rose hips to make a spicy autumn jam, but the harvest this year was so poor the only option was to use the handful of sloes to make a sloe gin. This is so easy to make, is ready just in time for Christmas, and makes an impressive and warming Christmas gift (and you can never start thinking about such things too early. Right?)
First wash and dry your sloes (or damsons)
clean, dried sloes and sterilise a large jam jar or wide necked bottle. Pierce each sloe a few times with a large needle to to help the flavour infuse the gin, and place the sloes in the jar. Add a few tablespoons of sugar and fill the jar with gin.
ready to shake!. Cheap own brand gin is fine for this as the flavour is imparted by the fruit. Shake the jar and put in a cool, dark place. Keep shaking the jar whenever you remember and taste the gin every few weeks to see if more sugar is needed. Come December decant into pretty, sterilised containers and give to your nearest and dearest.
You ARE a domestic goddess.