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Wales, United Kingdom
You know those diagrams in science textbooks that show the water cycle? Water evaporates from the sea and cools as it rises over the land until it condenses into clouds. Well that's where I live - where the clouds are born. It's very beautiful here, and it's also very damp. I don't yet know what I'll be writing about here. I had a blog a few years ago called, "Growing Things and Making Things," and there will be some continuity with that, but my life has moved on since then. I'm at a stage of reflection and re-evaluation - you could call it a mid life crisis - and this blog will reflect that. There'll be posts about things I'm doing - foraging, cooking, crafts, daft experiments (which may overlap with any or all of the other three) - posts about my thoughts on life, photos of beautiful Welsh scenery, maybe some Welsh language, and probably a bit of politics. Because it's important.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Sloe wine

People rave about sloe gin, but it just doesn't feel right to me to start making an alcoholic drink by buying an alcoholic drink. If I've bought a bottle of gin, I'd rather just get some tonic water to go with it than turn it into a different kind of drink. I wondered if I could make a similar drink starting from sugar and yeast, with the sloes for flavour, of course.

These are not my sloes, they are my neighbour's sloes.

On the 'ish forum I'd heard about feeding wine to make it stronger. Apparently this is a technical business involving mastery of a hydrometer, but basically it involves adding sugar gradually as the wine ferments. I think the reason is that too much sugar can kill the yeast, so you don't want to add it all at the beginning. Now, I don't own a hydrometer, but how hard can it be? I suspect the technical mastery is only necessary if you want to know how strong the finished drink is.

I looked up a few online recipes for sloe wine, and they all included grape juice concentrate. I'm not keen on buying fancy ingredients and I'd heard - again on the 'ish forum - that elderberries are pretty much identical to grapes apart from the sugar content. Elderberries seemed much more in line with my way of doing things, but by the time the sloes were ready to pick (after the first frost), the elder tree in my garden was bare.

I considered raiding the elderberry wine (which I haven't even tried yet) but then one day, out with friends, I spotted elderberries! Picnic leftovers were evicted from plastic boxes and the tree was raided. The next day I picked all the sloes from the tree in our garden and weighed the fruit. I had twelve ounces of sloes and eight of elderberries, which wasn't a huge quantity, but enough to be worth using.

All the fruit went into a bucket (after I'd picked it over) with the same weight of sugar and a kettleful of boiling water. That made it up to about three litres, which seemed about right, based on the recipes. I should link to those really, but I have no idea where I found them. I'm sure you can find them by googling, if you're interested. Once the water had cooled enough not to kill the yeast, I added about half a teaspooon of wine yeast.

Once I saw bubbles in the bucket, which happened after a couple of days, I added a bit more sugar, and repeated this every few days - stir to see if bubbles rise and if they do, add a tablespoon or so of sugar and stir until dissolved. There was one other major departure from usual wine making procedure. Bearing in mind that sloe gin is made by leaving the fruit in the gin for quite a long time, I left the fruit in the wine. In fact, I just left the whole lot in the bucket. It was really very easy.

By mid-December the bubbles had slowed to the point where I wasn't sure whether it was still fermenting. I put one last spoonful of sugar in, as I wanted the finished drink to be a bit sweet (sloe gin includes sugar, too) and left it maybe a week longer. Maybe not that much - I can't really remember. A few days before Christmas I decided it was time to bottle it, so strained it through muslin as I would for cordial. I also squeezed the pulp to get every last drop of wine out, but kept this last, squeezed batch separate from the rest. I got about three and a half bottles of wine, which was well worth the modest effort involved. The whole process took six and a half weeks, which is not bad either.

Even the unsqueezed wine wasn't clear, but who cares? This stuff is gorgeous! It's exactly what I was aiming for - a strong, sweetish drink that's packed with flavour. I was intending to keep one bottle back to see what it's like when it matures, but I'm not sure it's going to last that long...

1 comment:

  1. your comment about throwing out the picnic leftovers to have something to put the berries in made me laugh, we did that recently when we came across a huge hedgerow filled with sloes on a ramble, and emptied our water bottles so we could fill them with sloes!


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