Blackthorn is a shrub which grows usually just short of five metres tall. It is an old and famous plant as the fruit it produces is known as the sloe. Sloes look like very tiny plums. They have a dull, almost powdery bloom of darkest purple/black when they are ripe. They are bitter and are used in the making of sloe gin.
- Wash and prick once - one pint of sloes
- Add 4 level tablespoons of granulated sugar
- Pour in the gin until the fruit is covered
- Add a light sprinkling of cloves
- The juice of six almonds (a small amount of pure almond essence)
- Place in a Kilner jar and seal it
Turn the jar over ten full times and wrap in a towel or cloth. Place in a dark, cool cupboard. Turn the jar ten full times each day for three whole weeks. After this time turn the jar ten full times just once each week until three whole months have passed. The sloe gin should then be strained using a fine mesh. The liqueur should at this time be a warm rich ruby wine colour. The sloes taken from the steeping may, if required, be made into a rich sloe jam or chutney that can be served with game or cold meat.
Blackthorn blossoms are very late this year and are all heavily covering their branches. The leaves of the Blackthorn are small, dark green and oval and only appear once the blossom has fallen. The bush is covered all over with sharp black thorns and so is widely used for tall hedging often mixed with Hawthorn to keep live stock in fields and people safely out!