Autumn is the time to make damson and sloe vodka

Home-made damson and sloe vodka is a local celebration.

This time last year we made a couple of demijohns, having picked the fruit around our farmland in Hereford. The results of the labour are delicious, as long as you leave it alone for long enough for it to mature. Last year's wild damsons were amazing. We picked for the vodka and for the freezer, which were added to pies and crumbles throughout the rest of the year. 

If you manage to get your hands on sloes and damsons, here's how to make it into a delicious, warming drink:

  1. You need about 2kg of fruit, 1kg of sugar and three bottles of vodka.
  2. Prick each damson with a darning needle to let the juices out into the alcohol.
  3. Add the pierced fruit to a demijohn with the sugar and then fill to the top with vodka. Stopper the top with a tight-fitting cork and hide in a cool, dark cupboard.
  4. Turn the jars every week or so to mix the contents. Don't leave the fruit in for more than six months because it can go rancid.
  5. After six months, strain the contents through some muslin, then bottle. Use attractive bottles, and the longer you leave the bottles before drinking, the better the result.
  6. The soaked fruit is good to use immediately with ice-cream, but beware - it, too, is very alcoholic.

Dr Bruce Herriot is a GP in Malvern, Worcestershire.

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