Slow sloe gin

As the nights draw in, there’s nothing like a small snifter of fruit gin. Pouring a glass of deep red liquid takes me back to the summer and autumn days when I foraged the fruit.
The first time we looked at houses in Mitcham, I was surprised to see wild plum trees by the side of the tram path. Further exploration on the common and along the Wandle has revealed a profusion of free fruit available to forage near our house. Sloes, brambles, damsons, plums, elderberries and apples are all available at certain times of year. At first, the fruit was turned into a variety of jams, jellies and chutneys. The jellies especially have become a staple in the spouse’s barbecue marinades. But with the cupboard shelves now groaning with jam jars, it was time to look at another use for the fruit.
The first experiments were with the classic sloe plus plum, damson and bramble. All are subtly different. The damson has a drier almond flavour in comparison to the sloe. The plum is similar but sweeter, while bramble has a lovely jamminess which makes it all too drinkable. All four became firm favourites.
Fearing we would drink the gins before we could make more, we might have gone over the top last year. There have now been sloe, damson and bramble gins maturing at the bottom of a cupboard for over a year now. They are all still slowly absorbing the flavours of the fruit, waiting for us to to decant them into bottles. I thought that we had made too much back in 2012, but despite the bumper bramble harvest this year, I didn’t manage to forage any plums, damsons or sloes thus year. I don’t know if the late spring that was such a boon to the brambles was death to the prunus family, or if another forager got to them first, but it seems like the over-production of 2012 has stood us in good stead. I think there’s about a glass left in the damson gin bottle before I have to decant another jar and all this writing is making me thirsty. And anyway, I’ll need a drink before I tell you about the lemon balm vodka.