Sloe berries

Sloe berries

Do not eat raw - they are too astringent and acidic and can upset your stomach and tooth enamel!

Most people will have already encountered sloe berries in the form of sloe gin or vodka. But you don't have to consume alcohol to include these power packed berries in your diet. 

These anti-oxidant rich berries give commercially available superfood berries - like blueberries - a serious run for their money. They are far too acidic and sour to eat raw, but are a real treat when prepared properly. 

Suggested Uses:

Wash before use - DO NOT EAT RAW

Simple use - add the berries to a bottle or vodka or gin and 50g of sugar. Leave to steep for 4-6 weeks and then remove the berries. 

Make a tea from the berries - add a 4-6berries to a saucepan, cover with sufficient water for 2-3 cups of tea, bring to the boil and leave to simmer for 10minutes. Serve with honey if desired. 

Make an anti-oxidant packed purple vinegar - simple cram a glass bottle full of sloe berries, cover in apple cider vinegar and a couple of teaspoons of sugar or honey. Shake daily whilst leaving to steep in a cool, dark place for 4-6weeks. Then remove and discard the berries and keep the vinegar for use as needed. 

Sloe Berry Savoury Sauce

Add your bag of sloe berries to a pan, add 100ml of apple cider vinegar or red wine, 200ml of water, 100g of sugar (or 75g honey or maple syrup), a teaspoon of spices (pinch of each) - dried coriander seed, cumin, mixed allspice. 

Bring to the boil and cook until the seed pulp comes easily off the inner stone. Mash with a potato masher or whisk. 

Pour into a sieve and push through the pulp, collecting it on the other side (discard the pips once all the pulp is removed). (You may need to pour this extracted mixture back through the sieve several times to re-work the mixture and try and get all the pulp off the stones inside).

Pop the extracted pulp and liquid back into a saucepan (minus the stones that should still be left in the sieve) and cook on a low heat to reduce any excess liquid. Serve when at desired consistency. Some like a runny sauce for drizzling over meats, it goes especially well with game and mature red meats. 

Slow Berry and Crab Apple Jelly

Add your sloe berries and Crab apples to a saucepan with 200ml of water.

Boil until they are all mushy

Mash well with a potato masher, or whisk and then pour into a sieve.

Push the pulp through the sieve with the back of a spoon (or your hands if once the mixture is cooled) and collect the extracted mixture in a bowl underneath. 

You may need to re-work the pulp, by pouring through the extract mixture back into the sieve and to get as much pulp off the stones as possible. 

When the stones are largely free of colour and most of the pulp, put the contents of the sieve full of stones and pips into the compostable waste. 

Add the juice of one lemon to the collected mixture and weight it

Add the mixture back to a saucepan 

Add the same weight of sugar (or 3/4 of the weight if using honey or maple syrup) to the mixture in the saucepan and boil until the mixture begins to look thick and syrupy, or has reached setting point (see youtube for how to perform the setting point test with a frozen plate).

Pour the mixture whilst hot into clean jars, tighten the lid well and allow to cool, store in the fridge - (consume within a week if using un-sterilised jars). The usual cautious recommendation for the shelf life of foods preserved with sugar and acid (such as jams) is around 3 months, but traditionally these preserves would have lasted a lot longer. 

Making jams and jellies can take some practice - until you learn how to recognise that the mixture has reached its setting point. 

This mixture is high in pectin from the apples and sloe berries and so should set by itself without the need to use additional pectin. 

To sterilise jars you can wash them in hot soapy water, rinse well, then place the wet jars on a baking tray (open end facing down), cooking them at 180degrees Celsius for 15minutes. 

 Good videos for reference:

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