This is the crowd pleaser recipe, and has developed a following among friends, neighbours and family after quite a few years. It’s a superb sundowner drink with ice and tonic on a sunny evening in the summer, but also makes for a tasty, sweet warming glass to sip neat in the winter. I’ve tried commercial damson and sloe gins and there’s no comparison, there’s a complexity to the stone fruit flavours when making your own that shines through, alongside a reduced sugar content.
The time consuming part of this is gathering and picking over the damsons; the rest is pretty quick to do.
You’ll be left with lots of amazingly boozy damsons (with the stones still in). Use these to make a batch of damson port. Or, if you have the patience, take the stones out (which you can do by hand as they’ll be pretty soft, or with a small knife). You can then use these in a trifle or cake, or eat with yoghurt. They’re quite powerful, so you can also mix them with other fruit to take the edge off.
500g whole damsons
350g granulated or caster sugar
- Making the gin
- Plant your damson tree and wait 15 years for it to fruit. Luckily for us the previous owner of our house had already completed this step.
- Gather the damsons as they come off the tree, and only collect whole ones that aren’t squishy. I tend to do this every few days during a week or two in the summer.
- Rinse and pick over the fruit to retain the good ones, and store them in the freezer.
- When you’ve got all your fruit, get it out of the freezer, and discard any obviously bad ones. Add the fruit, sugar and gin to a big jar (I use 2l kilner jars). It is OK if the damsons are still frozen.
- Give the jar a good shake. Store in a cool place, and shake every few days or so until the sugar has dissolved
- Leave for 3-4 months. I’m harvesting in August and bottling in December usually.
- Use a sieve to get just the liquid
- Then pass it through cheesecloth or a similar filter into a nice bottle
- Label it, and you have a nice gift!
- I use the cheapest supermarket own brand London Dry gin usually, as the dominant flavour in the end will come from the damsons and sugar anyway
- I recommend World of Bottles (Flaschenland) for lovely quality heavy glass bottles from Germany at a very reasonable price.