If you make a big batch of damson gin (in a good year we’ll get 15-20l) it feels a terrible waste to throw away the fruit that’s been steeping in the gin for months. I’ve tried “gifting” it to relatives (marginally successful), painstakingly removing the stones to make boozy damson yoghurt or (one time) a spectacular black forest meringue trifle (recipe to follow). However, I am now indebted forever to Almost Off Grid for the best idea of the lot, and easy to boot. The gin-soaked damsons make an excellent damson “port”.
Real port is made in Portugal’s Douro Valley, and named for the town of Porto. Many years before today’s Brexit disputes, a spat between Charles II and Louis XIV in the 1670’s led to a ban on the import of French wines to England (the “prohibition of 1678“). The opportunity was there for wine merchants in Portugal to take advantage. In order for their wines to undertake the long and treacherous sea voyage from Porto to England without spoiling, they fortified it with brandy. The stronger, sweeter wines became popular, and ever since we’ve enjoyed a glass of Vinho do Porto, or just port. In the modern day process, brandy or neutral grape spirit is added part-way through wine-making. This kills the yeast and stops fermentation, meaning some of the sugar is then retained, and the wine is then aged in barrels.
This recipe is a cheat version, in that we start with a finished bottle of red wine (or perhaps you could think of it as a more historically accurate version). This is fortified with brandy. The secret ingredient is the damsons that have previously been steeping in gin for a few months (definitely not historically accurate). Their astringency has mellowed but there’s quite an alcoholic bite. Sugar is added for balance (this recipe is on the sweet side; you could certainly reduce the sugar). After a few more months, we have an excellent after dinner sipping drink. As the original recipe points out, too good for gifting, although having distributed one bottle for a birthday present I can vouch to the addictive qualities (“more please” was the main feedback).
A delicious after dinner port-style drink made with red wine and left over damsons that have been steeping in gin – thanks to Almost Off Grid for this recipe that they published as Sloe Port Recipe – which appears to be the canonical version (for instance, this earlier recipe from Caroline Taylor is the same).
750ml bottle of red wine (I used a Rioja, but clearly a nice Portuguese from Douro would be better)
200ml brandy (I used Seven Tails XO, that is a blend of three styles: Cognac, Armagnac and ‘French brandy’)
100g granulated sugar
500g damsons left over from making damson gin
- Mix all the ingredients in a sealed vessel (I use 2l kilner jars)
- Shake every few days until the sugar has dissolved
- Leave for around 3 months
- Filter through fine cheesecloth muslin and bottle