Sloe Gin and the Shameful history of Britain

Andy Hamilton

Brewer, forager, broadcaster, spaceman occasional liar

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10 Responses

  1. Jonathan Curtoys says:

    I was really interested in your article. As part of my business I do talks to interest groups about my products and do a bit of history about sloe gin, most of which I am ashamed to say that I made up based on a sketchy understanding of British history. However, I was delighted to see that it’s pretty much what you wrote; I am sure you did at least some research! Coming from a farming background (but, crucially, not having a farm) I am more interested in the enclosures and the impacts that had on country people. I think sloes represented something that could taken for free from those abhorrent landowners who kept them off the land, along with deer, pheasant, rabbit etc. I think you are right about blackthorn and hawthorn being used because of their spikiness; to keep us out and the animals in, but they also grow relatively quickly (hawthorn is often known as quickthorn amongst farmers) and Blackthorn is also “cheap” as you can take a simple cutting and push it into the ground and it will take – very useful if you find variant without thorns, which do occur.

    As a last point, there is a win-win for a sloe business as you can only get fruit from second year growth, this means that if farmers cut hedges annually they won’t get any sloes to support me and hawthorn berries to help wildlife. I now locally have farmers purposely not cutting annually so they can sell me sloes and in effect I pay them for keeping their hedges in a good state for wildlife – thick and tangled for protection and full of food for the long winter!

    • Cheeky devil 😉 I’ll let you off as I’m sure its the Yorkshire way of straight talking!

      I think really I was trying to point out that three things were happening around the same time and I found that quite interesting. I don’t know what you found looking for the history of sloe gin but apart from the occasional reference to the practice of mixing sloe juice with gin in the 18th Century there is nothing until the early part of the 19th Century.

      Anyway, very good comments especially about the second year growth which is something I didn’t know.

  2. Rob Smith says:

    Delighted to find, last year, that the council has planted blackthorn round my block of flats. And it was definately to keep the vandals out; and it has succeeded in that, together with the CCTV, the level of casual vandalism has reduced by (my estimate) around 90%. So, I had sloe gin and a peaceful Christmas last year!

    I’m with you, too, on using ‘virgin pure’ ingredients. Fair trade sugar, or sugar from locally grown beet, foraged sloes, which impact nothing in the way of pesti- or herbi- or insecticides,
    and organic gin, if you can find such a thing. A sublime liqueur, homemade and carefully crafted, deserves to come with a clean conscience.

    As for the enclosures, and the aristocracy. I think it’s high time the deeds to estate lands were challenged in court, and the people got their rightful lands and land related privileges returned. Let justice be done!

    Cheers, Rob.

  1. September 11, 2012

    RT @AndyRHamilton: Sloe gin and the shameful history of Britain http://t.co/exdCG8XM and a recipe for sloe gin if you scroll down!

  2. September 12, 2012

    […] Sloes are the fruit of the blackthorn bush, a mini relative of the plum growing throughout the British countryside and urban areas (avoid fruits growing near busy roads, nasty fumes). use a good illustrated guide to help identify. The best season for picking is late September/early October. some people say to pick after the first frost as this softens the fruit and skins making it easier for the flavors to mix with the gin. the problem with this is that the fruit will spoil within a week or so and you need to be able to go pick with short notice. picking the soft fruits is fine, just prick them with fork after washing in clean water and removing twigs and leaves. if a few maggots have been found whilst washing, leave the sloes in a bowl of water and the maggots should float to the top. […]

  3. September 12, 2012

    […] Post navigation ← Previous Next → […]

  4. September 14, 2012

    […] once had a demijohn full of sloes just sitting up on a shelf, I forgot about it for months or perhaps even (2) years. The sloes were […]

  5. October 11, 2012

    […] about one drink, sloe gin. Indeed, this is the fifth blog post I’ve written about the stuff as sloe gin really has got so […]

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