sloe gin bramble pie

Sloe gin Bramble pie: blackberries, booze and elephants

It’s sloe gin time. There’s no point in pretending any more.  Autumn is well into its stride and winter lies just ahead.  While the last warm bursts of sunshine still make an occasional appearance, it’s only a brief tease before the grey clouds and drizzle take over.  However we believe in the brighter side of life. So, despite the colder weather, we’ll be making the most of this season and taking advantage of all the things we love about this time of year.  The leaves are falling, leaving a satisfying crunch under our feet and a dazzling display of fall colour for our eyes. Here in Barcelona, the sweet potato sellers are out. You can see them huddling around their little stoves selling piping hot yams and bags of roasted chestnuts to keep us warm as the days grow colder.  

Christmas is in the air

Across the world, the Christmas lights are starting to appear in all their festive splendour. They’re strung elegantly across our streets like twinkling diamonds in the night sky.  The sounds of Christmas are all around.  Seasonal carols echo down the streets and blast out of our shops and restaurants.  The terraces are less popular these days and outdoor sipping is best done with a scarf wrapped casually around your neck.  Serious eating and drinking has moved indoors where the vibe is cozy, warm and comforting. The sights and sounds of the coming festivities are starting to build some proper momentum to give us hope and cheer for the colder weather ahead.  We suspect a version of this is happening all around the world as everybody prepares for the cozy days ahead.

Cozy, warm and comforting

So, while we’re on the subject of cozy, warm and comforting, we thought we’d share with you a recipe that will make you feel all of those emotions in one go.  Last year, we introduced you to the delights of the apple and blackberry sloe gin crumble.  This year, we’re going to discover the world of the sloe gin Bramble pie.  This is a gorgeous, heart-warming, stomach-filling dessert that’s perfect for this time of year and it features a delicious dose of sloe gin, our favourite winter warmer.  This is the kind of dessert you want baking in the oven after a long walk in the countryside.  It’s full of fresh, natural ingredients and we think it works really well with a dollop of double cream or a drizzle of hot custard. 

Take it sloe…

And, as you sit back in your comfy chair, soaking up all the heat from that roaring fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin. Home made is best. But if that’s a step too far, we highly recommend a glass of Elephant sloe gin from Germany. Hand made in small batches by artisan gin-makers, this deliciously rich spirit is based on Elephant’s original London Dry gin, but it has been transformed with fresh apples and rare African botanicals. Hand picked sloe berries that have been macerated in the gin have been added to release all their fruity autumn flavours. And at 35% ABV, you’ll only need a little bit. After having some Bramble pie and a glass of sloe, I think a pre-Christmas nap might be in order…

Save the elephants

Don’t forget that 15% of all the funds from the sales of Elephant gin go to foundations fighting the illegal ivory trade. Another reason to raise a glass of sloe.

Sloe gin bramble pie recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2kg blackberries
  • 75 ml sloe gin
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 6 tbsp cornflour
  • 1 medium free-range egg yolk, beaten (to glaze)
  • Seve with hot custard or double cream

For the pastry

  • 200g unsalted butter (room temperature) cubed (plus extra for greasing)
  • 400g plain flour (plus extra for dusting)
  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • A decent sized pinch of salt
  • 1 medium egg

Method:

  1. Put the blackberries in a pan with the sloe gin and golden caster sugar. Set over a low-medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes until you have about 1 litre juice. Drain the blackberries, reserving the juices, then leave to cool completely. Return the juices to the pan and reduce to a thick syrup (see tips). Once the blackberries have cooled, mix them with the cornflour. For the pastry, briefly whizz the butter with the flour, 50g sugar and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Slowly pulse in the egg, then 2 tbsp cold water, until the dough just comes together. Tip onto a floured surface, split into two (roughly two thirds and one third), then roll each into a ball and flatten into a disc. Wrap each disc in cling film, then chill for 30 minutes.
  2. Heat the oven to 210°C/fan190°C/gas 6½ and put in a baking sheet to heat up. Take the larger disc of pastry out of the fridge. Roll it out to 0.5cm thick on a lightly floured surface and use to line the base and sides of a 5cm deep ceramic or metal flan/pie dish measuring about 18cm across the bottom and 23cm across the top. Once you’ve lined the dish with the pastry, spoon in the cooled blackberries. Put the blackberry-filled base in the fridge.
  3. Roll out the second piece of pastry to a 23cm circle. Remove the dish from the fridge and lightly wet the edges of the pastry base. Top with the second layer of pastry and crimp, using your thumb and forefinger, to seal. With a sharp knife, make a few slits and a hole in the top and, if you like, use any pastry trimmings to decorate (re-roll, cut into shapes and affix with a little water). Brush the top with the beaten egg yolk to glaze it. Chill in the fridge for 10 minutes, then glaze again.
  4. Bake on the hot baking sheet for 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp – cover the top with foil if it browns too quickly. Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the dish for 2-3 hours so the filling can thicken. Serve the pie in slices straight from the dish, with lashings of cream.

Please note: You won’t need the syrup from the blackberries in this recipe, but it’s great as a base for a gin and tonic. Or drizzle it over sorbets and ice creams (you may need to sweeten it a little). If you’d like a sugary glaze for the pie, sprinkle the pastry with a little demerara sugar before baking. To make sure the filling is heated throughout, push a metal skewer into the centre, then carefully hold it to the back of your wrist. It should feel very hot.
Make the filling and pastry separately up to 2 days in advance, then assemble and bake at the last minute. 


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble

Sloe-ly does it: a boozy apple and blackberry crumble to warm your soul

Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer sun.  But there is an inevitability about the seasons that we just can’t ignore and we know that these months are the start of a gentle transition into the colder, darker, wetter days of winter ahead.

New season, new flavours

Fall in America is accompanied by hot cider and pumpkin pies as the last of the summer harvest is turned into delicious, sweet, spicy desserts.  In the UK, mulled wine, hot toddies and sloe gins begin to make an appearance alongside comfort food that is made to keep your soul and spirit warm for the cold months ahead. Think natural blackberry and apple crumble with sweet, rich custard drizzled lovingly from above.  In Barcelona, the sun still shines in a blue sky but the weather cools and the mood changes to something softer and gentler.  The locals take their city back from the tourists and enjoy the autumn colours from their front row seats on the terrazas and bars, dipping freshly made churros into hot chocolate so thick you can stand your spoon up in it.  Every country and region has its own autumn traditions.

Sloe-ly does it…

Last year, we introduced you to our friends Hamish and Jenny, who put aside time every autumn to forage in the English countryside for ripe sloe berries to star in their amazing home made sloe gin.  If that sounds like something you’d like to try, you might want to check out this little interview we did with them last year, in which they reveal their most closely guarded secrets for making a truly delicious sloe gin.  This warming, sweet, aromatic drink is a perfect drink to beat the chill on those cold days.  It’s rich, fruity warmth is ideal for a hip flask to accompany your outdoor activities.  But it’s also a perfect aperitif before a hearty lunch and is equally at home as an after dinner drink. The perfect end to a convivial dinner.

Or is it?

A taste of autumn with a sloe gin twist

We think that we may have found something even more delicious for you to try.  We’ve searched high and low for a great Autumn recipe that will warm you up from the inside out.  We think this rich, boozy crumble, packed with ripe Autumn fruits is the ultimate comfort food.  The cast of ingredients includes sweet juicy apples, sharp, bright blackberries and the secret ingredient – loads of rich, delicious, boozy sloe gin. This classic autumn dish has a depth and complexity that sets it apart from the rest. Plus, it’s packed with toasted pistachios and almonds for the crunchiest topping ever to offer a nice contrast to the juicy softness of the fruit that lies within.  

We think this sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble is the perfect way to end a long, lazy, Sunday lunch.  One of those lunches when nobody is in a hurry to leave because inside is so much more appealing than outside.  Especially if you’re in a cozy pub, drying out your feet in front of a roaring fire in the company of good friends.

So, here’s a simple, easy to make recipe that will warm you up on those gorgeous autumn days and warm your heart from the inside.

Sloe gin apple and blackberry crumble recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 900g apples (Bramley apples are ideal)
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 250g blackberries
  • 5 tbsp sloe gin

For the crumble topping:

  • 100g plain flour
  • 50g oats
  • 75g butter, cubed
  • 75g demerara sugar
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp chopped pistachios
  • Handful of toasted almond flakes

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180c and fill large bowl with water
  2. Add the lemon juice
  3. Peel and core the apples and cut them into chunks
  4. Add them to the water as you cut them to prevent discoloring
  5. Drain and transfer to a baking dish (approx 2.3l)
  6. Toss with the sugar and bake for 20 mins (until tender)
  7. Mix together the flour and the oats and use your fingers to rub in the butter
  8. Stir in the sugar, spices and pistachios and put aside
  9. Add the blackberries and sloe gin to the baking dish and toss to distribute
  10. Scatter over the crumble topping and pack down gently before topping with almonds
  11. Return to the oven and bake for 40-50 minutes until the topping is golden and the fruit juices bubble up around the edges
  12. Remove from oven and serve with generous servings of custard
  13. Pull your chair closer to the fire, pour yourself a glass of sloe gin and enjoy…

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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christmas mince pies in foil paper

Boozy mince pies: let the Christmas fun be-gin

At this time of year, the pre-Christmas nibbling has probably already begun.
Mince pies are one of the most traditional of all English treats at Christmas time – and for many, they are the taste of Christmas. But if you’re not brought up with this tradition, it’s sometimes quite difficult to get your head around the term “mince pie”. In fact, these days, there’s absolutely no meat to be found inside a traditional mince pie.

These sweet little pies have been decorating English Christmas tables since the 13th century when they were first brought to England by crusaders returning from the Middle East. The original Mediterranean recipes included meats, fruits and spices representing the symbolism of the gifts delivered to the baby Jesus by the Magi. In fact, in the early days, mince pies were actually rectangular and “manger-shaped” and were often topped with a pastry image of the Christ Child.

From crusader cuisine to rich, sweet Christmas pies

Over the centuries, these tasty sweet and savoury treats began to lose the savoury.  In fact, these days, the meat has been removed altogether, in favour of traditional sweet mincemeat – a rich mixture of chopped, dried fruit, spices, sugar and distilled spirits. 

The fruits usually include chopped apple, fresh citrus peal, currants, candied fruits, citron and brandy or rum. It’s then all mixed together and aged so that the flavours deepen and the texture changes to a dark, sticky, boozy Christmas goo! This gorgeous mixture is then encased in little pastry packages of buttery goodness and baked. 

Once out of the oven, they receive a final light dusting of sugar powder to finish it all off. 

For the final step: top with a little cream or brandy butter and pop this little sweet, spicy, steamy Christmas parcel into your mouth. Christmas will follow. 

This amazing mince pie mixture is unlikely to last you the whole festive season, but if you maintain your discipline, it can be stored for up to 10 years. 

Sloe is better

But what if we were to substitute a little gin where traditionally there was rum or brandy?

And even better, what about sloe gin?

If that’s more to your taste, then here’s a simple little mince pie recipe that means you don’t have to mix your spirits – just stick with gin!

These festive pies are made with lashings of sloe gin for a truly festive blast of boozy, fruity, seasonal goodness and they’re really easy to make. We recommend using Sipsmith Sloe Gin for this recipe, with its deep, warming sloe-ness. But you can choose any sloe gin you prefer – or even use your own if you have some home made sloe already in the house.

Mince pies recipe

Ingredients:

Mince pies
  • 300g fresh cranberries
  • 300g dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, apricots etc.)
  • 60g brown sugar
  • 40z Sipsmith Sloe Gin
  • 2tsp cinnamon
  • 2tsp nutmeg
  • 2tsp mixed spice
  • 1 orange

For the pastry:

Mince pies
  • 350g flour
  • 250g unsalted butter
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Icing sugar (to dust)

Method:

Mince pies
  1. Heat the sloe gin and brown sugar in a saucepan, stirring until all sugar has dissolved
  2. Stir in the dried fruit, spices and grate ion the zest from the orange
  3. Add the cranberries and squeeze in the juice from the orange. Leave to stew for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally
  4. Remove from heat and place to the side while you make your pastry
  5. Rub the flour and butter together in a bowl until it forms a crumbly mixture
  6. Add the sugar and egg and knead together into a dough
  7. Roll the pastry out and use a circle cookie cutter to cut dough circles to the right size for your muffin tins
  8. Squeeze the dough circles into your muffin tin and generously fill with mincemeat
  9. Top each pie with a pastry star, sprinkle with sugar and bake in the oven for 18 minutes at 220C
  10. Pour one glass of Sipsmith Sloe Gin for you. Pour another one for Santa. Sit back and hope you’re not on the naughty list.

Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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gin toddy

Hot sloe gin toddy: an easy recipe for autumn comfort

posted in: Cocktails, Gin and Juniper | 0

Summer is officially behind us and these days, the weather’s much colder, the rain’s more frequent and sometimes you can even see your breath in the air. This is the season of long nights, darker mornings, conkers, log fires, cozy walks, sturdy walking shoes and Wellington boots. But it is also sloe gin season in the UK.
You might have seen our interview with our friends Jenny and Hamish Prentice about how and when to harvest sloe berries. They’ve been making sloe gin in the Wiltshire countryside for years and they offered some handy tips on exactly how and when to harvest these elusive little berries and turn them into sloe gin. It’s well worth a read if you missed it. But once you’ve got your sloe gin, what exactly do you with it on a cold autumn evening?

Spice up those autumn nights

Well one thing you could do is warm yourself up with a delicious hot sloe gin toddy. So, we thought we’d make it nice and easy for you by giving you a simple recipe that will add a little spice to those cold, dark nights. When you’re trapped indoors (maybe enjoying the warmth of a log fire or wondering what gin based drink you should have) you could get your evening going with a burst of delicious, spicy alcoholic warmth.
Welcome to our hot sloe gin toddy – we think you’ll FALL in love with it (see what I did there?)

Sloe gin toddy recipe

Ingredients: Continued

Ingredients: Continued

A crafty glass bottle full of dark sloe gin with a shot glass next to it and surrounded by juniper berries

Slowly does it: why you can’t hurry a sloe gin

A short interview with our friends Hamish and Jenny Prentice, who’ve been harvesting sloe berries since they traded in the big smoke of London for the quiet beauty of the English countryside a decade or so ago. The couple now live in Wiltshire, in the gorgeous south of England and have been harvesting and bottling their homemade Sloe gin by hand ever since.
Every Christmas, Hamish and Jenny give me a gorgeous bottle of their beautiful, rich, warming, fruity, homemade liqueur as a present. I look forward to it for months. It’s so good that this year, I thought I’d ask them to share some of their sloe gin tips with the Barcelona Gin community.
This is what they told me:

How did you first discover the joy of homemade sloe gin?

Jenny and I have always been fond of food (and drink!). We delight in cooking adventurously using unusual, locally foraged ingredients. When we moved to the countryside drinks, jams and jellies were added to our repertoire. Sloe gin and Damson vodka quickly became our favourites.

What are sloe berries?

Sloe berries are actually the fruit of the Blackthorn bush. They are a deep blue/ purple colour and roughly the size of a large blueberry! When ripe for picking, they become soft on the outside and usually develop a pale bluish sheen on the outer skin. You can remove this by gently brushing your fingertip across the fruit to reveal the dark blue/black gloss below.

When is the best time to harvest your sloes?

Picking is normally late September through to late October. Traditionally the best time to pick was always “after the first frost”. That’s because the frost damages the skin & fruit pulp allowing the alcohol to get to the stone, which is where the real flavour can be found. We like to pick when they are starting to soften just a little and put the berries in the freezer, which has the same effect.Some people also advocate pricking each berry multiple times with a pin. This allows the alcohol to reach the stone, but it is time consuming. We’ve tried both ways (freezing and picking) with the same crop and found absolutely no difference at all. We go for the freezing option.

What about foraging?

We always harvest our own fruit. That’s because the fun is in the forage. Picking is better enjoyed with friends and family before a good, long Sunday lunch. We’ve been really lucky over the last few years to find some good bushes which we “monitor” from the middle weeks of September.

What’s your favourite homemade sloe gin recipe and how do you make it?

All sloe gin is good! But somehow it tastes better if you make it yourself. The idiosyncratic flavour and unique profile that each different batch achieves is very satisfying. Over the years we’ve reduced the sugar of more traditional recipes as we prefer a slightly tarter taste

Sloe gin is not difficult to make. It can be as simple as adding some sloes and sugar to a suitably elegant bottle of gin. We only use three simple tools – a demi-john bottle with a stopper/bung (readily available), a funnel for pouring and a cloth or muslin sieve when ready for bottling!

What’s the best ratio for a good homemade sloe gin?

We use 1.5kg of sloes, add 2 ltr. of gin and 1kg of granulated sugar (avoid caster sugar, which can be too fine and cause the sugar to clog the base of the demi-john).

For our taste, the best recipe ratio is 33% sloes:45% gin: 22% sugar

However, you can increase/decrease the sugar according to your taste. We’ve tried & tested countless combinations over the years. We stir the mixture frequently at first then we just forget all about it. It’s probably drinkable after 4 to 6 months, but we choose to leave it for a year to really steep that gin with a real burst of fruit.

Method

  1. Enjoy the picking & remove as many leaves , twigs as you can when you get home (stalks are fine). Freeze and leave for at least 24 hours for when you have the time to make the sloe gin
  2. Make sure your demi-john/ bung is clean. Soapy water, rinsed & dried has been fine for us – no need for ‘sterilizing’ 
  3. Pop your frozen sloes into the demi-john. Add the gin then the sugar, bung and swirl 
  4. Place in a dark cool place and swirl daily for the first week then weekly until all the sugar has dissolved. 
  5. We tend to bottle after a year when we are foraging for the next crop but you can bottle after 6 months
  6. Pour the demi-john contents through a sieve to catch the now shriveled berries  (compost them). Collect in a large bowl/pan. If you don’t sieve first the straining takes much longer
  7. We use a wooden hooped cloth straining bag but you can use muslin tied onto legs of a stool. We use 2 chairs and a broom to hold the strainer – so be resourceful
  8. The key thing is never be tempted to squeeze the bag or the gin will be cloudy – overnight  straining should be sufficient. You can move the cloth around a bit so that the gin finds a new area of clean cloth. It will strain through more quickly
  9. The crystal dark sloe gin can now be bottled or put back into a clean dry demi-john stored somewhere cool & dark until you are ready to bottle

Bottling it

We use an attractive 200ml cork stoppered bottle. It’s ideal for enjoying with friends and family or giving as a gift! We would normally make between 30/40 bottles of sloe gin and damson vodka in any one year.

What’s the best way to drink sloe gin?

We think that sloe gin is best enjoyed neat in a shot or sipped from a small sherry glass after a good lunch or dinner. It is equally enjoyable as a Sloe “Royale” with bubbles! We have also mixed it into homemade ice cream, dribbled it over puddings and have friends who swear by adding homemade lemonade to a generous shot. It’s also a great addition to cocktail recipes.

Enjoy.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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  • Gin and tonic lemon tart: getting into the Christmas spirit
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