Sloe jelly (or sloe jam, if you prefer) is almost unknown, which is a shame because it’s quite possibly the finest fruit jam you can make; tart, tangy and mysteriously dark. Sloes grow on blackthorn bushes, which are prickly customers at the best of times, and ordinarily you wouldn’t get much jelly for your trouble. Happily there’s a cheat, which is the addition of cooking apples. Apple brings out the flavour of the sloes and mellows their bitterness, helps the jam to set, and plumps the jam out to three times its original volume, making those prickly little prizes go a lot further. You can also get very similar results using bullaces instead of sloes; the flavour isn’t quite so good but the bushes are less thorny and tend to yield more heavily.
How to make sloe jelly
- Weigh your crop of pricked, frozen or frosted sloes in a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the fruit, bring to the boil, and simmer until the berries are pulpy (you may need to mash them a bit).
- Add twice the weight of washed, chopped apples (peel, core and all), and the juice and peel of half a lemon for every kilo (2 lbs) of apples. Bring to the boil, simmer until pulpy again, and leave to cool down a bit.
- Strain the pulp through a scalded jelly bag or fine muslin into a suitable container. You shouldn’t squeeze the bag to hurry it up or you will have cloudy jelly, so leave it to dribble through overnight.
- The next day, measure the juice and add 400g of sugar per 500ml (1 lb per pint). Stir it over a medium heat until it comes to the boil, and skim off any scum.
- Boil the liquid until it reaches setting point (you can use a sugar thermometer for this, or just keep checking it with a cold plate), then ladle into hot jars and seal
1 litre water
Juice of 1 lemon
Granulated Sugar (80g per 100ml liquid)
1. Bring the sloes, water and lemon juice to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
2. Break up the cooked sloes with a wooden spoon or potato masher, don’t bother about the stones as they will be sieved out later.
3. Simmer for a further 10 minutes.
4. Pour the mixture through a sieve. If you want your cordial to be clear you should line your sieve with a muslin and don’t push the pulp through. I didn’t do that and although the cordial is perfectly fine it isn’t clear.
5. Clean the pan and pour the juice back in, add the sugar and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved.
6. Bring to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes. Cool and bottle in sterilised bottles.
Sloe gin is just the tipple for warming up cold days, but you have to think ahead and make it now so the rock-hard, purple-black fruits have time to flavour the gin. Your gin isn’t ready until the colour resembles a decent Beaujolais.
Prick your sloes, about 450g, with a needle or freeze them and bash with a heavy weight. Tip them into sterilised bottles, the fruit coming a third of the way up. Divide 350g of caster or granulated sugar among them then top up with gin or vodka. It will take about 750ml. Little point in using an expensive brand, by the way. Place the sealed bottles somewhere cool and dark. Leave for 8-10 weeks, turning the bottle occasionally, giving it a shake every week.
For me, the hardest part of making sloe gin is keeping my patience while it mellows. Well, that and finding enough sloes. I take great pleasure in pricking each berry with a needle in several places then dropping them into a bottle with sugar and gin, but others like to freeze the sloes in a plastic bag then bash them hard with a hammer or rolling pin. It is an effortless, kind-on-the-thumb way to get the best out of your hedgerow booty, though I much prefer the slow, non-violent way. Sloes are notoriously evasive. Forage for your own or try local farmers’ markets. I found this year’s supply in a greengrocer in Bristol.
Yes, warming in a glass, but have you ever thought of using it in the kitchen? Even a tablespoon will add fruit depths to everything from gravy for game birds (pour it into the roasting tin and stir over a high heat to dissolve all the roasting debris into the gravy) to a major injection of flavour to a fruit crumble. Try it with plums or – best of all – with blackberry and apple. Not a gin type? Then use vodka. Suggest a drop of vanilla
Autumn is the perfect time to make sloe gin or vodka. Hedgerows are full of ripe, juicy sloes and the delicious fruity liqueur will be ready in time for Christmas. So why not give it a go? It’s so easy to make and you certainly won’t regret it when, feet up in front of the fire with the wind and snow howling outside, you treat yourself to a warming tipple. Why not try one of the other Allotment Heaven easy recipes?
2 litre preserving bottle such as show here
1 litre bottle of gin or vodka (no need to buy an expensive brand!)
450 grams of sloes
250 grams of white sugar, whose purpose is not only to sweeten the liqueur but to also extract the maximum amount of juice from the sloes.
1. A few days before you’re ready to start put the sloes in a plastic bag and place them in a freezer. This will break the skins.
2. Let the sloes defrost before using.
3. Put the sloes, sugar and gin or vodka into the preserving bottle and seal.
4. Give the contents a thorough shake.
5. Shake the bottle every other day for a month.
6. Shake once a week for the second month.
7. When you’re ready to drink (see below) strain clear the liquid into the 1 litre sterilised gin or vodka bottle.
8. Add more sugar if necessary according to preference.
9. The liqueur can be drunk from the third month onward, though will improve with age.
The leftover sloes can be used to make jam.
To drink, add 10 parts water to one part cordial.
Words in Irish from Dunmanway, West Cork from Flor Crowley N.T. (National Teacher), Behigullane, Dunmanway. Flor is the short for Florence the old version of the name in Irish is Finín, Fineen, Finghín.
Magistrate of same name:
Florence Crowley,1895, Behagullane, Dunmanway, listed 1913.
From his book ‘In West Cork Long Ago’, 1979, Mercier. Some of the practises flailing had probably gone out by the early 20th century.
Pages 9 and 10
Pre 1965 farming practices West Cork, Red Elephant and Epicure potatoes, working with the grufán, threshing with the steam engine, winnowing of wheat and oats, working in the bog.
Flor Crowley NT, Behigulane describes farming practices in Dunmanway for small to middling farms which would have been common to Protestant and Catholic farmers from the Famine to the early 1960s. From then on, reclamation, rural electrification and specialisation spelled the end for many of the prctices described.
The page sequence in the PDF is out, note the bottom page number.
Bowlers Aughaville, Dromore, Colomane, Durrus, West Cork. Bill Barrett, Patrick O’Driscoll, Richard Barrett, John Connolly, Jimmy Crowley, J.j. Sullivan, Donald Crowley, Eugene Daly and Possible Origins in Co. Armagh and The North of England.
It has been suggested that road bowling was introduced to West Cork by weavers who came in in t18th century from the North of England.
Flor Crowley, a National Teacher from Dunmanway who taught in Bandon founded An Bol Cumann. He wrote extensively on local matters and is books are now collectors items.
Thanks to Peter O’Driscoll, San Francisco and Donal O’Mahony, Cobh.
Bill Barrett who always wore white tennis shoes. Patrick O’Driscoll of Aughavile was recognised as a reasonable good bowler he was the man that guided Bill Barrett during his early days as a bowler.
His grand son Peter O’Driscoll was told by Tom Hayes from Aughaville whom he met in San Francisco. Tom Hayes came to America & San Francisco in 1910, at the age of 17 years he was in the first World War, he died in 1974 and is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetry. He never married.
Bill Barrett in his younger days was a senior class bowler. This was before you had tar and crushed rock surfaced roads.
Richard Barrett from Colomane Wood he would be a cousin to Bill Barrett, Richard brothers were Pat, Bob, Steven and John. Older men around Colomane often said that John Barrett had the ability to a great bowler.
Richard was a local good bowler not quit a senior class bowler.
John Connolly of Colomane West was a senior class bowler.
Jimmy Crowley of Colomane was a local good bowler He was from the family that owned the trashing machine.
Donald Crowley of Colomane Pub was a local good bowler.
J.J. Sullivan of Coomane north was a local good bowler, he came to America about 1958 he was a cousin to John Crowley’s family. My best guess is that John Crowley’s mother was J.J. Sulivan’s aunt.
The up and coming star was Eugene Daly of Dromore in 1960 and the later arrivals in San Francisco have told Peter O’Driscoll that Eugene was a senior class bowler.
Around Drimoleague and Drinagh, there was a family of Sheen’s (Sheehan?) three brothers John, Jerry and Michael. also a Humphrey O’Leary was a senior class bowler.
These are bowlers that that bowled on a Sunday evening along the main road from O’Driscolls pub in Aughaville to Crowleys pub in Colomane.
The score of bowl started from the roadside sign post about two hundred yard east of the Aughaville cross-roads and ended at the sign post about two hundred yards west of Colomane pub, a distance of two miles.
There are other bowlers that came from Bandon and places near Cork City to bowl from Aughaville to Colomane.
In the Durrus area Danny O’Mahony of Ahagouna reckoned to be the best 84 yard loft with Mick Barry. In his early years on the Dunbeacon Road sometimes Bill Barrett would mark for him.
In the local folklore a son of one of the O’Donovan Landlord families (either That of Timothy of the Cove or Richard of the Fort) was reckoned to be a good bowler. There is an excellent painting in the Crawford Art Gallery Cork of a member of the landlord Smith Barry family of East Cork bowling early 19th century in all his finery.
It has been said that road bowing was introduced to West Cork by weavers from the North of England. In the Durrus/Schull are the Crostons were a weaving family who may have originated in Croston, Lancashire. Another location for bowling is Armagh. Here too there were may families introduced in connection wiht weaving/linen/flax to West Cork in the early 18th century from Co. Armagh, names such as Johnson, Richardson, Shannon. Williamson adn Young among others..
Congratulations. Another interesting and valuable post.
Thank you for building a valuable resource for community, county and Nation. Your work is a valuable resource, in particular for those of us who lack your ability for research.
Looking forward to more and more.
May the Old Gods bless you and your endeavours.