The Sloe Trilogy I: How to make sloe wine, vodka, jam

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.

Sloes in a glass

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…

Sloe Wine

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 keep an eye out for the sloe vodka and fridge jam recipes…

And please have a look at my Sustainable Foraging Guidelines for tips how to forage responsibly.



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31 responses to “The Sloe Trilogy I: How to make sloe wine, vodka, jam”

  1. Mike Swan Avatar
    Mike Swan

    My wife got to our sloes first and mixed them with apple and made sloe and apple jelly. Do you think I should go ahead and make wine from the mush? Any reason not to?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Mike

      No reason at all not too. I made a load of blackberry & apple wine from the mush left over from making a fruit cheese last year. It had a gentle colour and a great fresh taste.

      Let me know how you get on


  2. dominic Avatar

    Hiya carl , this wine seems a good way to use up the bumper crop of sloes this year , I have made sloe gin and vodka and a large quantity of jam and puree wihich is delicious but im not a huge wine lover , do you think it would adapt well as a mead ?, and have you any ideas as to quantities,of sloes to add for a standard demijohn, or should i just wing it and see what happens.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Dominic

      Mead an excellent idea, I think it’d be a ‘melomel’. I’ve done a honey wine here

      All you are after is a flavour & colour for the mead, so 750g+ should be fine. Anything will make some change. Do let me know how it goes.


  3. Deborah Mingham Avatar
    Deborah Mingham

    Now firstly I have to admit I am a little tipsy. However, that is my reason for returning to your webpage. We have tested our first bottle of sloe wine having followed your recipe in December last year. The results are fantastic. A lovely, gently inebriating wine that we will definately be making again this year, in triple quantity. So, thank you very much Carl.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Deborah (pun not intended)

      That’s a testimonial if ever I wanted one, well done you 😀 My pleasure to help you discover it. Here’s hoping for a good harvest for you 🙂

  4. Susan Avatar

    When should you drink sloe wine? with food? as an aperitif?, after a meal? warm? chilled?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Yes to all of those for me. I don’t adhere to many wine ‘rules’ – it depends on what takes your fancy, have a try and see if you like it that way 🙂


  5. Matt Avatar

    I have a batch that has been going for a month now. Is there any need for finings to help it clear or does that happen as you re-rack the wine after a couple of months?

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Matt

      No need for finings. If it’s stopped fermenting just move to a cooler place and it’ll gradually clear with time & as you carefully re-rack 🙂

  6. isobel Avatar

    I’m defrosting my sloes tonight and getting everything sterilised and ready to go for tomorrow. Am looking forward to sharing my progress with you and my fb friends – Izzy

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Izzy – sounds like you are well organised. I’m looking forward to finding out how you get on. Have fun 🙂


      1. Izzy Avatar

        Hi Carl, I may have a problem. After the initial fermentation of my wine, I separated the liquid from the fruit at the bottom of the container by sieving it and have ended up with a cloudy suspension in my demi jon. Is this OK ? I was thinking it’d be clearer after I’d got rid of the fruit from it. I’m now wondering if it’ll ever separate out. Its now nearly 2 weeks since I sieved it. Thanks. Izzy.

        1. Carl Avatar

          Hi Izzy

          You don’t have a problem – apart from being patient 😉

          There will be minute suspended particles. These will clear gradually, they take a while because they are so small. If you allow to settle and the rack after a few times you’ll see a difference. If it’s finished fermenting (easiest to check with a hydrometer reading of less than 1) then it’ll clear nicely in a cool place if you have one. Time now needed for it to clear and develop a good taste 🙂


          1. Izzy Avatar

            Thank you. I’ll try to be patient ! I’ve got the vodka on the go now too. Its looking good.

          2. Izzy Avatar

            Once it’s settled out do I need to use some tubing to syphon it off the sediment ? or can I use a funnel ( with built in sieve ) and /or muslin

          3. Carl Avatar

            Yep tubing to draw off the liquid above the sediment without sucking that up. If you pour it into a funnel, you’ll just mix it all up again and the sieve will not be fine enough to catch the small particles 🙂

  7. Lin Forsyth Avatar
    Lin Forsyth

    Great! Hubby picking sloes as I write – I will be freezing them tonite & will let you know how 1sty batch tastes!

    1. Carl Avatar

      Sounds excellent Lin – I look forward to your news 🙂


  8. Simon Avatar

    Hi Carl
    Managed to pick 3.5kg of sloes in an hour. Going to give this wine recipe a go. Also as per my previous comment I have made sloe and crab apple jelly ( was going to use them in chutney but couldn’t be bothered to remove the stones ) its an amazing colour. I also made some blackberry and chilli jelly. All thanks to your blog cheers.

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Simon

      Brilliant collecting there, we seem to have a great sloe year, lovely plump fruits.

      Glad to be of help, let me know how the wine etc goes 🙂


  9. Andrew Avatar

    Hi Carl, what type of yeast did you use and does this matter? Thanks, Andrew

    1. Carl Avatar

      Hi Andrew

      I used a general purpose wine yeast, in this case a Youngs one available on line.

      Wine yeasts are a different type to bakers’ yeasts and produce more alcohol, whereas the bakers’ yeasts produce more CO2.

      Hope that helps, if not, ask me some more questions & I’ll do my best to help 🙂


    1. Fa reading Avatar

      Great help, now to make my wine— sloe fred.

  10. Carl Legge Avatar
    Carl Legge


    Hi Melanie – thanks for the feedback, hope you have some luck finding sloes. Your blog has some great recipes, so I've added it to my blogroll. Thanks for letting me know. 🙂


    Hi Monica – I saw the pictures, they are huge! Don't forget that you can make sloe vodka which may be more to your taste and the second part of the trilogy is about that. Good luck, let me know how you get on 🙂

    Cheers to both of you…

  11. Monica Avatar

    I picked some beautiful sloes this morning and am going to put them in the freezer tonight, then start the wine tomorrow. Very excited about this – I'm not a big gin drinker but I do love wine. (Not that that will stop me from making sloe gin, too 🙂

  12. Melanie Avatar

    Great post! Will try and find some sloes this weekend! Please do check out if you have a chance. Have a great day!!

  13. teawithhazel Avatar

    elderberries are seldom seen here but i planted one 2 years ago and this year it looks as if it will have a small crop..

  14. Carl Legge Avatar
    Carl Legge

    Hi Jane

    Sorry to hear that. Do you have elderberries or damsons or some equivalent. It would work equally well with those.


  15. teawithhazel Avatar

    carl..i'm jealous of your sloes..we don't have them here in australia unfortunately..i will just have to get vicarious pleasure from reading about how you use and consume them..