I like making the most of a harvest. Especially when the harvest is as hard won as picking sloes. So I wanted to work out a way of getting multiple products from the same batch of produce. I don’t mean dividing the produce and making three different things, I mean using the product sequentially for different products. I was astonished at how well it worked.
First I used the sloes to make wine. Then I used them to flavour vodka. Finally I made a fridge jam. So I had 6 bottles of wine, 1 litre of vodka and half a dozen jars of jam from 1.5kg of sloes.
The process is really very simple with some modest bits and bobs you should have around the kitchen.
So in this first post, I’ll tell you how to make the wine. In a second post in a few days I’ll show you how to make the vodka and then the jam.
Fancy a go? Read on to find out more…
You will need the following items of equipment:
- A food grade bucket or large bowl that has a lid or you other way to cover for the initial vigorous fermentation.
- A big plastic or metal spoon or paddle to stir with
- Something to strain the wine after the initial fermentation. I use a funnel with integral filter. You can use sieves, muslin or similar.
- A couple of glass or plastic demijohns for the later fermentation. The 5 litre square water bottles are good substitutes.
- An airlock to stop bugs and things getting into the demijohn while the fermentation takes place and to allow the carbon dioxide produced to escape. You can substitute a cotton wool plug loosely secured with cling film and an elastic band.
- A wine bottle to hold any excess ferment.
- Some tubing to transfer wine between buckets & demijohns.
- A thermometer
- Six bottles and corks or a 5litre wine bag/box to store & serve your wine
I’m going to give you quantities here to make one 4.5 litre demijohn which will give you six standard size bottles.
1.5kg sloes washed and picked over (freeze them and they will mash easier)
1.5kg sugar (white granulated is fine)
2.25 litres boiling water
2.25 litres cold water
2 lemons juiced
1 tsp yeast nutrient or 1/4 tsp yeast extract/marmite/malt extract dissolved in a little water
1 tsp yeast
Some form of solution to sterilise your equipment. We use VWP Cleaner/Steriliser.
Have a read through this completely before you start. The make sure that all the equipment you need is thoroughly cleaned, sterilised and rinsed.
It’s best to pick the fruit when it’s nice and ripe and on a dry, sunny day.
Give the fruit a gentle wash and do your best to take out any bits of stem, leaves and bugs. You’ll not get all of it, so don’t worry too much.
Put your sloes in a bucket and lightly mash them with a potato masher or rolling pin. All you want to do is break the skins so that the pulp will be exposed to the liquid and release some flavour. If you freeze and then thaw them, this will be very easy.
Pour on your 2.25 litres of boiling water and add the sugar and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the 2.25 litres of cold water, stir and cover. Check the temperature and wait until it cools to room temperature. You could happily leave this overnight.
Next day add your lemon juice, yeast nutrient (or substitute) and yeast, stir and cover again. Make sure the cover is not on super tight, if the fermentation really takes off a tight lid might prove exciting. Leave in a warm place, 20-25°C is ideal. Within 24 hours you should start to see fermentation begin with bubbles of carbon dioxide rising to the surface. At this stage it can become quite frothy.
Stir daily for the first 4-7 days using a sterilised spoon or paddle each time.
Once the initial vigorous fermentation has slowed, then you can strain the liquid off the sloes and into a demijohn using your straining system. DO NOT throw them away, you need them for the vodka.
Top the demijohn up to its shoulder with water and insert your airlock or substitute system. Leave the demijohn in a warm place. It would be a good idea to label your container so that in the months to come, you remember what’s in there. Put the type of wine and date on the label.
You should see bubbles in the ferment and gas escaping through the airlock.
The wine will begin to clear after the next stage of fermentation lessens. You should be able to see sediment at the bottom of the demijohn. This is remaining pieces of fruit and dead yeast cells that have completed their job of converting sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.
It’s good to periodically take the wine off of this sediment, which is called ‘racking’ the wine. So from a September/October harvest of sloes you might rack in November/ December and then in June/July. Look at your wine and see how it’s progressing.
If you taste the wine by taking a sample each time you rack, you’ll be able to taste and feel how the wine changes. At first it’ll taste a bit like strong, sweet fruit juice (it is!). It will gradually change into a more complex, full bodied wine taste. It really is worth giving the wine time to develop before drinking it.
Once you are happy with your wine, rack it for a final time into your sterilised bottles and seal with sterile corks or use a sterilised 5 litre wine bag in a box.
Let me know how you get on in the comments.
And please have a look at my Sustainable Foraging Guidelines for tips how to forage responsibly.