Muddle-headed Kay (mhw) wrote,
Muddle-headed Kay
mhw

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Sloe gathering

As I mentioned here a couple of days ago, I'd noticed that the sloes in our local hedgerows were looking about ready to harvest. Today being one of my less-busy days, and with a relatively dry weather forecast to boot, it seemed an ideal day to take a gentle country walk and do some harvesting.

I set off about 11 am, equipped with a capacious heavy-duty plastic carrier bag (actually a free bag from Coventry Library) and my trusty walking-stick, intended less as a means of aiding my mobility than as a handy tool for beating down nettles and hooking down branches for easier gathering.

Winding House Lane was, I assume, formerly the location of a winding house for the coal mine at Keresley in the days before Her Milk-Snatcheriness decided that she didn't want the UK to have coal mines any more. Now it's just a feeder road for the A444 and, indirectly, the M6.

I started at the junction of Wheelwright Lane and Winding House Lane, and walked to the Arena end of Winding House Lane, noting where the good sloe bushes were located. I then worked my way back along the footpath, gathering as I went, detouring to take a circuit of the football pitch, which you can see as the green trapezoid at the centre of this map.

There seemed to be very few people out walking today, but I did get one or two curious glances from passers-by who were probably wondering what I was doing in the hedge... One young woman did actually pause and ask; when I showed her the sloes and explained what I intended doing with them, she was surprised, saying that she'd always believed that "those funny-looking blue things" were terribly poisonous. It saddens me that so many people live in ignorance of the wonderful things that surround them.

I did, however, have an excellent five-minute conversation with a woman who was exercising her dog on the football pitch. She remembered her grandmother making sloe gin sixty years or so ago, quite possibly from sloes gathered from the same bushes from which I was harvesting today, since her family had always lived locally. She was quite curious to know how sloe gin was made, so I gave her a quick description of the process and the URL for sloe.biz; after my description, she was quite keen on making some for herself!

And so to home at about 3 pm, laden with sloes. They're now washed, picked over and draining so that I can freeze them in packs of 450 grams; one pack is enough to put into a one-litre infusing bottle according to the sloe.biz canonical recipe. It's debatable whether they'll all fit in the freezer, since it's currently quite full; I may have to do some hasty repacking, using-up or disposing of things that have drifted past their use-by dates...

It looks as though I shall be making rather a large quantity of sloe gin this year, unless I branch out into chutneys or other preserves, since I've discovered that I picked about four and a half kilos of sloes today — and there are still plenty to be had on the bushes :)

Edit: I've actually packed them in 500 g bags, since making obeisance to Imperial measure is IMHO silly, and I shall probably be using less sugar than is canonical, anyway.
Tags: booze, happy day, sloes
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