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Are these Sloes?

I thought I'd have a go at making some Sloe Gin as I've discovered a massive crop of Sloes growing in the hedgerow near where I live. At least I think they are Sloes. Most descriptions mention thorns (the bush they grow on is called Blackthorn), but I'm not seeing any thorns, just stumpy little nodules on the branches between clumps of berries. 

From reading up, the only other things they could be are Damsons or Bullace, but they seem too small (looking very much like Blueberries) and have the sour astringent taste I've read about. Are there different varieties without thorns? Pics below:



  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    Yes those are sloes  :)
    The thorns are on mostly older wood, so you may not have had your hand in far enough  ;)
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • They do look like sloes and not damsons or bullace.
    Amazing to have full leaf cover still.
    Made sloe gin some years ago. You do need to cut into them so that they release the juice from the fruit into the gin. Don't forget the sugar.
  • FairygirlFairygirl west central ScotlandPosts: 35,520
    I picked a load a while ago and froze them for my sister. She likes them for her gin. The blackbirds and thrushes have the rest of the crop  :)

    Yes - no foliage here either, for a good while now, but I expect some places that are more sheltered will have some. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

  • Thanks for your replies. I just realised I attached the wrong pic, that one was taken in sept, so explains the foliage! This one was taken today, I still can't see any thorns when looking deeper into the bush, but will have a closer look tomorrow.
  • rachelQrtJHBjbrachelQrtJHBjb South BucksPosts: 686
    Don't worry, you'll come across some thorns when you pick them!

    I make sloe vodka, not gin. I don't bother pricking each individual sloe. I just bung what I've collected into the freezer for a week or so, bring them out, let them defrost, stab at them whilst holding a handful of skewers (alternative is to use a meat tenderising hand mallet), drop sloes in a demi-John and add sugar and alcohol. 

    There was a sloe gin recipe on this week's edition of Escape to the Chateau. 
  • Thanks for your tips, I'll go out and pick some tomorrow, will look out for the thorns!
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,270
    If you want the Sloe Gin/Vodka to have a stronger almond flavour, you can expose more of the pits in the individual berries, but you don't need to do this with all of them.  Most recipes recommend adding sugar at the beginning, when you are soaking the berries.  It's difficult to control sweetness when you do this.  We find it's better to soak the fruit in alcohol for 6 weeks or so, and after that we add a sugar solution to suit our taste.

    FYI, you can also make another liquer from Blackthorn trees, called Epine (crown in French).  You pick the very young, new leaves of the trees in Spring, and soak this in gin/vodka.  It makes an almond flavour liquer.  We haven't tried this yet, but will be making some in Spring 2021.
  • edited November 2020
    Thanks. I went out and picked some today, I went quite deep into the bushes and didn't encounter a single thorn.
    Some were black and shiny, others were covered in a grey-blue powder like coating. Is one type preferable to the other for gin? 
    Has anyone any recommendations for other non-alcoholic Sloe based foods? I've just been reading Ray Mears book Wild food, where he mentions freezing them, then bruising or crushing them to remove the tannins, forming into cakes, leave to cure for two days and then lightly roasting.  I cannot find any other references to this online, very strange!
  • steephillsteephill Posts: 1,732
    Our old copy of the Richard Mabey classic "Food for free" only mentions gin and making a sprightly clear jelly. So you could try making the jelly and tell us what "sprightly" tastes like :D
  • I don't fancy the jelly much (sprightly or not!), but I've tracked down Gordan Hilllmans (who co-wrote Wild Food with Ray Mears) guide for making Sloe Mash and Sloe Cakes:

    Definitely going to have a good at this!
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