SLOE GIN is a firm autumn favourite of mine and a great excuse for a day out foraging in the hedgerows of Yorkshire.

If you aren’t aware, it’s relatively simple to make, taking just a couple of months to be ready – so right now it’s perfect to make so it’s ready for the festive period.

Sloe gin is also super easy to make because it doesn’t require many ingredients or special equipment. All you need is an eye for Sloes, a large glass bottle, some gin some sugar!

First of all you need to find some Sloes which are abundant in the Yorkshire area. Some years there seems to be very little around and other years an abundance: it’s said that usually every other year there is a glut. The good news is that I can confirm there are a lot this year!

Recently I managed to pick a few kilos last week with the aid of the nimble fingers of my unpaid work force – or ‘children’ as some people like to call them. I recommend buying a good identification book or searching the internet for tips if you are unsure what they look like.

Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn bush which are very common in the hedgerows along roads, parks and woodlands. They flower from March to May and bear fruit from September to November. They are the distant wild relative of plums and have the appearance of a small blueish-black plum. Sloes have a sharp sour taste unlike the sweet cultivated plum, and they’ve been eaten for thousands of years. They were even used by fraudulent wine makers in the 1700s to produce counterfeit “port”!

Many commercial Sloe gins are in fact made with less-expensive neutral grain spirits rather than gin, however there are still small producers who make it the traditional way such as Addington Fruit Liqueurs which is right on our doorstep. It is a family-run business that primarily uses locally sourced, picked and even foraged ingredients.

As I explained last month I plan to champion a local producer in every column, so if you don’t have time to make your own recipes but want to try out the foods or drinks I recommend, then you can support local and buy the next best thing to making your own!

If you’re making your own Slow gin and don’t already have some Sloes then I suggest you get picking as soon as possible – it’s often recommended to pick them after the first frost or to prick them with a pin. However, I find that freezing the Sloes for 24 hours has the same effect; once frozen they release their juice much more freely.

You can of course buy Sloes online if you can’t find any or you’re not the outdoors type. Just search the internet, perhaps you can still buy local!