This year has been a bumper one and the fruits came early, so the gin factory is well underway in time to be bottled for Christmas.
We use a big five litre plastic water container – nothing sophisticated, and the recipe is simple.
Take 3lbs (l.35kg) of damsons, wash them and prick each one two or three times (tradition says use a needle, we use a thin skewer) and pack them into the empty water container. Add 3lbs (l.35kg) of sugar, ordinary granulated will do, and then pour in a litre of gin. Cheap supermarket stuff will do. Put the top on and shake. Your bottle needs to be stored on the tilt, somewhere coolish and dark and turned a quarter each day to move the sugar about. The four sided water bottle is ideal for this, and unbreakable which is good if it’s on the floor of your larder like ours. When the sugar has completely dissolved and your gin is a lovely clear deep pink colour, strain off the damsons and bottle. This can take between eight and twelve weeks.
The gin is a beautiful colour and has a lovely fragrance and a deep fruity, slightly sweet taste. Lovely to drink on its own or poured over ice cream.
The ginny damsons can be used, but a little goes a long way – I once made a crumble using only them, and it was way over the top. Add a few of them to normal plums. A friend used to coat them in chocolate but in my book that’s way too much of a faff!
I prefer this to the more traditional sloe gin, which is a little bitter and more medicinal in flavour, but made in exactly the same way. Sloes, the fruit of the blackthorn, are related to damsons, but have smaller harder berries. Folklore has it that the berries should be picked after the first frost, but the hedgerows are groaning with them now – they too have had a bumper year. Cheers!