How to Make The Ultimate Sloe Gin – Laying Down

Although this project doesn’t include hammers and nails, I think it still counts as ‘shit I want to make’. I used to make a batch of sloe gin every year, but after a few fallow years, I am running out of sloe gin reserves, so it’s time to get some ready for next year.  This describes how to make sloe gin.  I provide a sloe gin recipe, ingredients and a step by step guide with photos.

What is Sloe Gin?

Sloe gin, is a British liqueur made by infusing gin with sloe berries for a year or so (with the addition of some sugar).  What comes out the other end is a bloody delicious, rich and fruity winter tipple.  


Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) which grows in and around the hedgerows of the fields Britain (and Europe, North America & Asia).  They look like this:

Sloes. Fruit of the blackthorn

Apparently they are related to plums but they are much smaller, and taste bitter.  They become ripe in the autumn around October (it is suggested to pick them just after the first frost but it depends what the demand is for your local bushes).

The Ingredients

In the past I have always ‘winged it’ so this year I thought I would actually measure what I put in, so here are the ingredients per litre of gin (I am making 3 litres):

How sloe gin is made – ‘Laying Down’

The first stage is ‘laying down’ which is where most of the hard work is done.  This is where the sloes are prepared and added to the gin and sugar. The gin then needs some regular turning/moving for about a year after which it needs to be filtered and bottled.  Finally – the 4th stage is the drinking stage which should be in about a year.  You need to be patient!

1. Wash the berries.

Washing the sloes

2. Remove all the stalks and leaves and ensure that the skin of each sloe has been broken. Some people freeze the sloes to do this, either by putting in the freezer or picking after the first frost.  I’m not convinced that this is 100% effective so to be sure, I use the ‘truly amazing Pendsé sloe pricking device’ to pick up the sloes.  One can then remove any stalk / leaves and put the prepared sloe in a container ready to be infused.

This is the most time-consuming bit of the process.  Also a bit messy so worth covering your table.  Get a couple of mates to help you, put on some tunes and have a few beers / wine.  A nice way to spend an autumn’s evening catching up with some friends.

Sloe Pricking Device - Pricking sloes

3. Once the sloes are prepared, then weigh out the correct amount of caster sugar and sloes for each jar (225g of sugar & 482g of sloes).

Weighing the sloes

 4. Start to fill up the jar by alternating 15mm-20mm layers of sloes and sugar.  Don’t worry too much as it will all get mixed up anyway.  It should look something like this: 

Adding sloes and sugar to the jar Ready for the gin to be added

5. Once you have finished, the jar should be a bit less than half full and you can now fill it up with the gin.  If you following the measurements I have given, a 1 litre bottle of gin should fit perfectly.

Adding the gin Ready for laying down

6. Finally, check they are watertight and box them up.  Remember to label them so that in a year’s time you know the quantities etc.

 Packaging up the sloes

Sloes ready to be stored

That is pretty much it for now.  Store in a cool dark room (e.g. garage or shed) and turn / move every couple of days for the first week or two, then once a week, then once a month.  Again – it doesn’t matter too much, but it just needs to be gently mixed up once in a while.

More to follow in a year when it’s time to bottle …… enjoy!

Sloe pricking device

The ‘truly amazing Pendsé sloe pricking device’

This is a pretty bloody amazing invention.  If you are planning to make sloe gin, then this is the must have gadget to speed the process up.

Before putting the sloes in the gin, they need to be pricked to break the skin and allow the juice to escape into the gin.  Freezing the sloes can help this process but is not 100% effective so I invented this device.  In order to make it, you will need:

  • A wine cork
  • 5-10 pins
  • A knife

Sloe Pricking Device - Ingredients

This is how you make it:

1. Cut an 8mm slice off the cork.

Sloe Prcking Device - Cutting the Cork

2. Stick the pins through the cork 

Sloe Pricking Device - Sticking the pins through the cork

 

And that’s it …. Use it to pick up and prick the sloes.  It will save you loads of time and you will be telling your mates what a genius invention it is.  I’ll probably take it to Dragon’s Den …

Sloe Pricking Device - Pricking sloes

Lego Storage Drawers

Okay – I was a Lego geek as a child.  I now have a little 3 year old Lego geek in the making and so I got all my old Lego out of my parents loft and brought it to our house.

Red Lego Bricks

After spending an evening sorting the Lego into piles by colour, I realised that I needed some useful Lego storage drawers to organise and keep all the pieces separate.

In order to easily find pieces I thought that large and flat containers would be better than smaller, taller containers.  The more spread out the Lego pieces are, the easier to find.

Ikea has a range of storage drawers called Trofast which looked like they would be perfect:

Trofast Storage Combination

They do various sizes of shelving and storage trays.  All interchangeable so work out how much you need and then select what you need.  Here is my shopping list:

Finally, I printed coloured labels to stick on the front of each drawer so my 2 year old girls knows which colour is in which drawer (she can’t read yet).  You can download the Lego Labels (Zip file containing Word documents).

And below is the finished product.  Obviously the sprogs mixed up the colours after about 10 minutes but it is actually working pretty well.

Lego Storage Drawers

Table Restore 5: The finished product

With the final coat of oil applied this morning just about dry, it’s time to construct the table ready for Christmas lunch tomorrow.


Oddly I have not really documented putting the table together.  There was not too much to it anyway – 2 nuts and bolts and a couple of washers on each leg.  I’ll upload some nice pics afterwards but here is the obligatory before & after pictures: 

Oak table before refinishing

Table as I bought it

 

Table after refinishing

Finished Table

 It certainly looks much much better and it was all pretty straight forward.

I would say a bloody successful first project.  Once Christmas is done and dusted I’ll think about what the next project will be.  Chin chin.  Merry Christmas …..

 

Table Restore 4: Oiling

I spent ages trying to work out the best thing to treat the table with so that it is waterproof etc.  I wanted a natural looking finish and so although varnish is hard-wearing even a clear varnish would be just too shiny. In the end I decided to go for Danish furniture oil.

Danish Oil

Danish furniture oil is a penetrating and durable synthetic oil.  It provides a water and alcohol resistant finish and although makes the wood a little darker and brings out the grain, it provides a natural finish.  It is really easy to apply and dries fairly quickly too.  It stinks though so if you can apply outside that would be better.  I went for a small can of Ruskins Danish Oil which was enough for 3 coats.

The other things you will need are:

  • A hoover (to hoover the dust)
  • Tack cloths (to remove the fine dust)
  • A brush or soft cloth (to apply the oil)
  • Wire wool (to apply the last coat of oil)

The video below shows oiling the table:

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Video of oiling the table

I need to do 3 coats and need to leave 6-8 hours between coats.  It’s going to be tight but should just about make it in time for Christmas. The final step is to put it all together.

Table Restore 3: Sanding the table top

Before sanding the table top I researched electric sanders and found the Black & Decker Mouse Sander on offer for £20 at Homebase.  I also bought some extra sand paper for it. 

Black & Decker Mouse SanderBlack & Decker Mouse Sander

On a cold December day I put a trestle table in my drive and started sanding the main part of the table.  You need to sand with the grain as if you go across the grain then it leaves scratches which you then need to sand out:

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Video of sanding the table top

The Mouse Sander worked really well.  I went through about 8 papers so one definitely needs to buy some extra paper.  Within a day I managed to sand it all with the table with firstly a course grain, then a medium and finally a fine grade of sandpaper.  No big problems really.  This is how it ended up: 

Table top after sanding

Table top after sanding

The next step is to treat the table with Danish furniture oil.  16 days to finish before 12 people arrive to eat off it on Christmas Day!

 

Table Restore 2: Sanding the legs

I thought I would start with the legs using a foam sanding block and course grain sandpaper to get an idea of how long it would take.  The video below shows how I got on..

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Sanding the legs

 

It’s worked quite well and only took about 45 mins. That said I think it will be hard work to do large flat areas so will be doing some research into sanders I think.

Sanded Table Legs

The sanded legs

 Next to do is to sand the rest of the table …

 

Table Restore 1: The project

So my first project ….. 12 people coming for Christmas lunch and our kitchen table is not big enough so I bought a used and slightly knackered oak extendable kitchen table from eBay for £51 and I plan to refinish/restore it.

Table as I bought it for £51 from eBay

I don’t want the finish to be too shiny or glossy but as it will be the family table and we have two children under 3 it needs to be a pretty robust finish.

The process as far as I can work out will be as follows:

  • Sanding to remove the old varnish, marks & dents
  • Staining (I though I need to figure out if this is really needed)
  • Treat with penetrating resin (not quite as hard wearing as varnish but easier and more natural looking)

Here is a video of the table as it currently stands in my garage:

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I’ll start the sanding soon …….

What is this all about?

I’m not really sure how to start this, but I really fancy building or making or fixing something. It’s a feeling which has been brewing for a while. I have a short list including hovercraft for my son, radio controlled lawn mower, wooden go kart, squirrel scaring robot and a load of other bits and bobs.

I thought I would document my progress so that if successful then others can learn from my numerous mistakes.

Lets see how it goes.