Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Gathering Sloes

Frost patterns on the glass roof of the conservatory.

We have had the first serious frosts,
which means it's time to go into the woods and gather sloes.

Sloes are the fruits of the Blackthorn, used to make 
sloe gin, wine or jelly.

In olden days they were used as a household remedy: 

By the end of October, go gather up sloes
Have thou in a readiness plenty of those
And keep them in bedstraw. or still on the bough
To stay both the flux of thyself and thy cow.

Five Hundred Points of Good Husbandry 1573

Benno is showing me the path into the woods.
At the very end of the month, there is still a memory
of the glory that was October. 

We have arrived.
Blackthorn loves a sunny place at the edge of the woods,
not too tidy, often by a stream between the woods and the fields.
In Spring, a blossoming blackthorn hedge makes itself known
from far away as a frothy white cloud hugging footpaths and lanes. 

This is what we came away with:
more than three kilos of sloes,

Well done, Benno and Friko.

Beloved will do the rest.

Sloes for keeping are best taken not quite ripe,
 and stored still on the branch;
 but sloes for wine or jelly
(wherein some mix them with apples to take away their sharpness)
should be left until after they have weathered
a sharp frost or two.


  1. I had never heard of sloes til I met you, Friko. But then I remembered drinking sloe gin fizzes in college. I think I thought they were slow gin fizzes and that I was supposed to drink them slowly.

  2. I picked my sloes a few weeks ago and popped them in the freezer. Last week I made sloe gin and sloe vodka with them - should be fine by Christmas - cheers!!

  3. The surrounding countryside is awash with sloes this year. We don't pick them, and neither does anyone else, by the look of it. Perhaps that's something we should think about in the future.

  4. That picture of Benno is just perfect.

  5. What fabulous pictures of Autumn, Friko. Sloes look excellent - here's to lots of sloe gin and sloe and apple wine!!

  6. Bravo Benno, du warst eine grosse Hilfe bei der Schwarzdornernte, wirklich gut gemacht.

    Das ist das Schöne wenn man auf dem Land wohnt.
    Zuerst dachte ich, Blackthorn sei Wacholder, aber es ist Schlehdorn, Schwarzdorn.In unsere Gegend finden wir das nicht.

    Habe im Buch von Kräuterpfarrer Johannes Künzler nachgeschaut, um etwas mehr darüber zu erfahren.
    Danke fürs zeigen. Schöne Woche.

  7. Home-made sloe gin is so superior to the brand named ones! I think we used to prick them first before soaking them in sugar for about a month - in an air tight jar - then adding the gin. Never made wine or jelly with them. Is the jelly like crab apple to be served with meat dishes?

  8. I did not understand what you were gathering until I went to Google Translate then I understood. You are going to make “liqueur de prunelle.” Sloe is prunelle in France. I don’t remember how it tastes but I had it a long time ago. One of the recipes for prunelline is made with gin, some almond and coriander.

  9. Ah, how nice to trail along behind you on your walk gathering sloes. And the Tusser quote is priceless.

  10. It's nice to learn something about sloes. Now I have an idea of what sloe gin fizz is. Mostly, however, I love that photo of Benno in the woods. Given the choice of a sloe gin fizz or a lab by my side, i would always choose the latter.

  11. I've had sloe gin but only very recently learned that its fruit came from the Blackthorn. This is the first time I've actually heard of someone harvesting them. Thanks so much for this.

  12. I would like to echo George's comment. Sloe is something I have read in many a book, without really knowing much beyond that context.

    Friko and Benno, many thanks to you for my education. Perhaps when your beloved has taken the next required steps, you might post a follow up report?


  13. Reads surreal from here. Thank you for taking me away into a fairy-tale. Please have a peaceful Wednesday.

    daily athens

  14. Like so many other colonials,
    I had no idea what sloes were;
    thought they might be edible worms
    or varmits. So thanks for the sloe
    education. Sloe gin usually is so
    rich it gives a tremendous hang over;
    probably the sugar content.

    I agree the snap of Beeno is a
    pure Hallmark moment. He is
    wonder dog for sure.

    I enjoyed your trek into the forest
    and your sloe treatise, and have
    re-posted it for more promulgation.

  15. I wonder if Blackthorn is to be found in British Columbia? Thanks to blogging, I now have Elderberry growing - why not Blackthorn?
    Lovely photos of fall days and your beautiful Benno.

  16. sloe gin. had no idea what that was. had heard of it of course. so now I know.

  17. What a beautiful walk your Benno must have enjoyed, a lovely post :o)

  18. Oh, handsome glossy Benno! Much admiration here from the newly-besotted-with-labs lady!

  19. I felt clueless, even after Vagabonde's comment, as to what sloes are. Then I saw George's comment about sloe gin fizz, et voila! Not that I still know what they are, but at least that gives me a point of reference.

    Three kilos! My husband is also the one who "does the rest" . . . although he does the picking too, of wild blackberries and black raspberries. I do, however, help him pick the grapes.

    Beautiful post and photos. The Good Husbandry quote is fun. The first photo, whatever that is from, is just lovely. A dress? A pillow cushion?

  20. yum - i could feel that autumn air. whats your plan for the sloes then Friko? sloe gin? jam or remedies for the flux? thanks for the beautiful walk :)

  21. Learn something new, wonderful, and strange every day. Very neat!

  22. Schlehenlikör, exactly! And very easy to make, I learned. Just wash them, add some spices and a whole bottle of Korn (what is that in English? Schnaps?), then let ripen together for a few months. And then get drunk. Thoroughly!
    But don`t get tempted to plant them in your garden. You won`t ever get rid of the plants again, because they creep underground.
    Cheers, Friko! Lovely pictures!

  23. Beautiful pictures and interesting post! We have tiny wild persimmons that need a frost to be edible. Hmm, I wonder... persimmon gin?

  24. love those blueberries!1

    Perfect for my blueberry muffins!!

    wish you a happy evening!!:))

  25. It looks like it was quite a lovely day to go about picking berries with a beautiful black dog by your side... As far as I know there are no sloes here in New England which surprises me if they can be made into gin:) The photos of the just picked berries are as beautiful as your words describing them...

    Thanks for stopping in at Arcadia today! It is nice to meet new people!

  26. thank you for visiting with me today - i'm happy to be introduced to new friends. :) and sloes - i've heard of them but never knew the source. beautiful photos too.

  27. You're right Friko - it's an amazing year for berries isn't it? I have a blackthorn bush at the bottom of the garden and had an especially good haul this year.

    I make sloe gin thus: prick each berry about twenty times (I know, I know - but it brings out the almond flavour of the pip) then fill your bottle(s) with one third sloes, one third sugar and one third gin. You have to shake it every day or so until the sugar dissolves - beautiful!

    But I never knew they were supposed to 'stay the flux' - hurrah!

  28. The only sloe I know about is some kind of gin. I had a friend who drank it but I find gin yucky.

    Pretty good-looking countryside you live in.

    Amazing frost patterns. Nature is an incredible painter.

  29. your poetry is real,
    breath taking piece.
    Thanks for sharing.

  30. Hi Friko, thanks for visiting my blog. I'm still in the process of setting it up. I really enjoy blogging, but don't have as much time to devote to it as I'd like.
    I'm very jealous of your sloe harvest! We wanted to make sloe gin, but it's not a good year for sloes in Norddeutschland - the few we had in our garden have all been eaten by birds...
    Viele Grüße nach Shropshire, Andrea


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