2012 was a good year for produce in Portugal. The crops benefitted from a hot and sunny spring. The sunshine brought out the blossoms and a good blossom produces a good fruit. (The springs of 2010 and 2011 saw a lot of heavy rainfall which damaged the flowers resulting in a poor harvest.) I would imagine that a 2012 Portuguese wine to be very good.
A short walk from my house takes me into the quiet village of Carvalhal de Santo Amaro. From the village you can turn right into a pretty country lane that leads down into the Louro valley and onto Penela. This typical stone walled route takes you past vineyards and olive groves.
Wild fruits grow in the lane including sloe’s and this year (past) they were large, soft and little bit sweet, very palatable if you don’t mind the sour after-taste. I admit I quite like it.
I decided to try my hand at making sloe gin. I picked enough berries to fill three tall jars (and enough to fill my stomach), added two heaped tablespoons of a rich brown sugar, filled the jars with gin, sealed and shook, and then left alone. I had planned to prepare the liqueur just before Christmas. Note, the fruit was bruised before packing.
This was an experiment as I did not follow the recipe from my book. I did not want a sweet liquor and I did not want a gin with a hint of the sloe. The recipe recommended using half the sloes so that they were floating in the gin, but mine were packed to the top. It also suggests adding the sugar after, to the finished product, to taste.
The result was a very rich and delicious product that was not too sweet and deep blue in colour. It was a little cloudy as I only strained it once. A second straining would have produced a clearer result but I did not want to lose all the pulp. I would guess, based on the volumes that the product was no more than 20% proof.
Locally, here in North Wales there are a lot of damsons growing and I may well experiment with a damson gin later this year.