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Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Romani Domus Eunt Sloe ly

sloes on a blackthorn

Apparently, there’s a plan to open up the Roman Fort at Whitley Castle to the public and do a bit of development work such as removing walls from the enclosures and having a hut and stuff. Look, I’m not really sure, see?

Anyway, Whitley Castle is in South Tynedale near Alston and is closely passed by the Pennine Way. It is remarkable for it’s ramparts and defensive works which are both huge and extensive. Me and Brian went for a look. They’re definitely very impressive defences and I’ll look forward to watching developments at the site. Here’s some pics of those magnificent ditches and banks.

whitley castle 1 whitley castle 2

whitley castle 3 whitley castle 4

After all this, we visited the outskirts of Alston – roughly at the point where the Pennine Way enters from the South and where there are some blackthorn trees. Blackthorn trees have black, very sour berries with a hard centre and, it is rumoured, that if you wash these and put them in a jar with a load of sugar and a substantial amount of gin, and leave it for a long time, that the resulting beverage is both invigorating to the soul and the ruination of housewives.

sloes 010

After visiting several sites upstream of Alston, we came away with a large bagful of this black treasure. I’ve got a few pounds weight of the stuff in the kitchen at this very moment. All that I lack is a jar and a bottle of mother’s ruin. I will sort out those deficiencies in the morning and start the production of the very first Pieman’s Sloe Gin. You have to take an interest in things, otherwise you never learn nowt. Drink responsibly and fairly sloely. It should be ready by April (ish)

 

11 comments:

John J said...

Hmmm, I've just collected 11.5lbs of sloes. At 1lb sloes to 1 70cl bottle of gin, it's going to be a rather merry Christmas.

BTW: Lidl sell suitable gin @ £8.70 / 70cl. You need around 1lb of sloes per 70cl of gin.

JJ

Mike Knipe said...

Christmas? You must be in a hurry JJ. I understand that the berries are more effective if given a short period in the freezer. Is this correct?

dittzzy said...

I really like by the way the farmers wall climbs up and down over the defences.
I also really like sloe gin. :-)

Mike Knipe said...

You should write in about the wall, Ditzzy - they're going to have it disposed of...
I'm looking forward to sampling the gin - in responsible amounts, of course... (koff)

John J said...

My sloes are in the freezer, I'll try to get them into the gin this weekend. It's probably pushing it to expect it to be ready for Christmas but you never know!

Phil said...

24 hours in the freezer apparently stretches/splits the skins and does something to the cells that makes the sloe stuff infuse better ... or you could prick them with a needle (tedious but effective). I've now tried both ways and the result is pretty much the same (hic).

My recipe.

Iain said...

We've been making the stuff for almost 30 years. Still alive and with intact livers, so must be good for you. We always pop the berries in the freezer first, then prick them gently before sloshing all together in jar with the other needed stuff. After about 3 months, it's usually about ready for a swift slug - or two. Last time I was in Alston, (to meet a fellow solicitor in the 1980s), we had a couple of decent pints and some passable grub in a pub in centre of town, can't remember the name of the place - I blame it on too much Sloe Gin, meself!

Alan R said...

So there will probably be wind turbine application going in soon then!

Louise said...

S'pose it'll be all gone by the Challenge?

IckleBigSis said...

Sloe gin is yummy scrummy. Made it a few years ago but not got enough sloes to make it this year. Must get out berry picking again.

Anyways, I have a large jar you can use if you still need one. You need to prick the berries a few times to encourage the juices out into the gin and sugar. Once in the jar give it a shake every once in a while, within 6 weeks its will be drinkable.

Nice on its own or with lemonade. ;) Save me some please. :)

Mike Knipe said...

Thanks everybody - there will indeed be none of this on the Challenge, should I be accepted (!)

Rachel - Loads of sloes about half a km up the Pennine Way from the bridge at Alston. We left quite a few for the blackbirds.
Gizzajar, though...