Cooking, Family, Recipes

Food and Drink Post: Sloe Food

For those of you who might not be familiar with the term, “slow food” originated in Italy in the mid-1980s, when the first organization to promote localism and traditional methods of cooking was formed by Carlo Petrini. Its name, clearly, is a reaction to “fast food” and the homogenization of food culture into a global phenomenon where one can order a Big Mac (or similar) anywhere in the world and know exactly what hash will be slung at one and what it will taste like.

Before one of you remarks, “you say that as if it’s a bad thing:” No, it can be a very good thing, especially when one is in a hurry and needs a quick food fix, or when one isn’t sure exactly what ingredients are causing those delicious smells to waft from that hole-in-the-wall, grubby little place you see in front of you but whose sanitation seems non-existent, the provenance of whose ingredients you’re not sure of, and whose menu (written in a non-Roman script), you couldn’t even begin to read, let alone pronounce. (Bat stew, anyone? That’s probably a seriously local, very traditionally-prepared delicacy in certain parts of the world. It might even be delicious. But. Still. BAT.)

I’m an afficionado of slow food myself. Some of my lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers, take weeks or months to get to the table, because I grow them here. Maybe later this year, I’ll cop (is that still an allowable word?) a bit of honey from my beehives (that takes a while to make, too). There’s something lovely about knowing where the produce came from, where it was grown, and that it’s not been more than about ten minutes since it was growing in the field, or stored in the hive. Dilettante and poseur that I am when it comes to farming, though, I don’t feel the same way about meat. “Oh, look. There’s roast leg of poor old Buster,” isn’t something I ever want to say or hear, and thank goodness, from my position of “farmer privilege,” I don’t have to. (This always reminds me of Dr. Jonathan Miller, a person familiar to Brits for decades on stage, television and radio–although not-so-much in the States–when he was asked if he was Jewish. “Yes,” he responded. “But I don’t go the whole hog.”)

Still, much as I’d love to hear about your own experiences with “slow food” (and I would, have at it in the comments, please!) that’s not really what I want to talk about today.

What I want to talk about today is “sloe gin.” For which I recently discovered my paternal grandmother’s recipe, squirreled away in Grandpa’s roll-top desk. Here it is:

Full disclosure. I don’t like sloe gin. The only good use to which I’ve ever seen it put is as an ingredient in the world’s most delicious dessert, Just Rachel’s Damson and Sloe Gin ice cream.

That being said, a recipe that starts out “take a gallon of gin* and . . .” can’t be all bad. Amirite?

Sloes seem to be hard to get in the US. I’m not sure they’re grown anywhere here. A Google search of “sloes imported US” brings up an unhelpful page related to shoe imports, and a question as to whether or not I actually meant “slaves imported into the US.” I’m not even clicking on that second suggestion. God knows who’s watching, listening, and taking notes.

Wikipedia says that sloes (prunus spinosa) are the fruit of the blackthorn tree (the one from which the famous “blackthorn stick” is made). The berries are beloved of butterflies, but humans find them quite sour and nasty. Also, according to Wikipedia, a similar gin is made in the United States using berries from related plants such as the chokeberry (which we do have around here). However, I’m a bit hesitant, having read that chokeberries are poisonous (cyanide). Perhaps the gin kills the cyanide. Who knows? I’m not really prepared to find out, although I can’t help noting the inclusion of “bitter almonds” in Granny’s recipe. LOL. Maybe if I ever do go the chokeberry route, I should leave the almonds out. Wouldn’t want to complicate matters by having doubled up on the dose if I end up stretched out on the living-room floor.

So, in the interests of safety, but still in the interests of SCIENCE! and experimentation, here’s my plan: the nasty, sour, small-berried fruit that can be rendered delicious by the application of enough sugar, and which is readily available at certain times of the year and which springs to mind is–wait for it–cranberries!

As soon as I find some cranberries in the local grocery store, I’m going to give this a try.

Your thoughts?

In addition, as we wend our way towards Christmas (really, really wish I’d left that tree up), do you like to make a few special liqueurs for the season? I generally make some fruit ones–raspberry, strawberry, peach. They’re pretty, and it’s fun and easy, and it’s become one of the seasonal rites of passage around here.

Please share. To recap: Slow food. Gin. Sloes. Gin. Christmas rites of passage. Gin. Liqueurs. Or anything else that tickles your fancy.

Have at it.

*That would be a full-size imperial gallon, equal to about five quarts of your puny US measure.


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