Believe it or not, sloes aren’t all about the gin. Add a few more ingredients and you can make this common hedgerow fruit work its magic as a condiment too.
October and November are the time of year when you might start thinking forward to stocking your cupboards for Christmas. While infused gins and vodkas — which usually take around three months to be ready to drink — might be top of the list, if you love a cheese board as much as we do, then it is well-worth planning some festive preserves while you’re out picking.
When people think of the sloe, the small and sour fruit that grows on the blackthorn bush (Prunus spinosa), they rarely consider its use beyond spirits. Take a bite of this dusky purple fruit and you might see why — they leave you with a very dry mouthfeel.
The sloe comes alive when mixed with sugar and lifted with other fruits, however, and infuses everything with its rich red-purple hue. This jelly recipe adds some apple for both flavour and pectin, while the rosemary creates a subtle woodiness that works brilliantly with cheeses.
This recipe yields 600-700mls of juice.
Extra equipment: jam thermometer, sterilised jars, jelly bag, jam funnel
Ingredients - filling
1kg destalked sloes
1 sprig rosemary
1 tsp cinnamon
Caster sugar (500g sugar to 600ml/1pt liquid)
Wash the apples and roughly chop. Put them in a saucepan with the washed and destalked sloes, rosemary and cinnamon.
Just cover the fruits with water and boil until they turn to a pulp.
Using a large jam-funnel, strain the liquid through a jelly bag, cheesecloth or double-folded muslin into large measuring jug.
You will ideally need to leave this overnight for all of the liquid to drip through. Don’t squeeze the bag as this will cloud the jelly.
Measure the liquid and return to the pan. Add 500g of sugar for every 600ml/1pt of juice. Attach a jam thermometer to the edge of the pan and bring to the boil.
When the boiling liquid has reached a setting point of 105 degrees centigrade, remove from the heat and pour into sterilised jars. Can and seal immediately.
Always stay safe when foraging. You need to be 100% sure of your identification, 100% sure that your foraged item is edible, and 100% sure that you are not allergic to it (it is good practice to always try a small amount of any new food you are consuming). If in doubt, leave it out!