Ep20 - Gin & Sloe Gin - 12 Foods of Christmas

 William Hogarth's Gin Lane, 1751 engraving

William Hogarth's Gin Lane, 1751 engraving

Ep20 - Gin & Sloe Gin - 12 Foods of Christmas

It's the day after Boxing Day in a very windy Suffolk...the type of day that you need something to warm you to the bone. It's also the mid point between Christmas and New Year…we might benefit from a break from the excesses that have been and may be yet to come. We also can't go cold-turkey from the excesses of non-stop food and drink so a gin and tonic or a bit of sloe gin is a welcome comfort.

I never manage to get the timing right to pick sloes from the hedgerows where they can be foraged. The Sloe, or wild Plum, is the fruit of the Blackthorn found in the hedgerows. By autumn these small fruits are oval, blue-black and their sourness makes them perfect to cover with sugar and gin which by Christmas will have formed into a perfectly luxurious holiday tipple, sloe gin.

 Cicely Mary Barker, The Sloe Fairy, Flower Fairy series c. 1927

Cicely Mary Barker, The Sloe Fairy, Flower Fairy series c. 1927

 

  • The Sloe, or wild Plum, is the fruit of the Blackthorn found in the hedgerows. By autumn these small fruits are oval, blue-black and their sourness makes them perfect to cover with sugar and gin which by Christmas will have formed into a perfectly luxurious holiday tipple, sloe gin.
  • Gin was invented in Holland around 1650 and it made it’s way to England not long after. Distilled from grain, it gets its name from the crushed juniper berries it passes through  which are called genever in Dutch.

  • Juniper berries have long been used medicinally with their cordials being renowned for their astringent, restorative and sustaining properties.

  • They were even thrown on the floors of medieval homes so that when guests walked upon them the cracked juniper berries would emit their fragrant spice...a sort of applied pot pouri.

  • Less than a hundred years from when it was invented, England found itself in the midst of an all-out gin craze.

  • Gin was the first spirit produced in the industrial age and gin was incredibly inexpensive due to the fact that the government did not tax grain OR distillation.

  • Sloe gin was known as the poor mans port' and adding sloes helped to cover the many unfortunate ingredients being added to it to make it even cheaper.

  • The Gin acts changed legislation to try to curb the ‘gin craze.’

  • Charles Dickens loved gin and punches and there are many legends connecting his literary works and social habits and excursions.

     

A few years back I decided to bundle all my interests together and rebrand from Smy Chutney to Smy Goodness so that all my preserves, crafts, products and workshops could live together in one place. My own podcast seemed a suitable place to uncover, understand and enjoy things related to food, art, history and design. Please do share your stories, knowledge, questions and suggestions. In the Smy Goodness.com podcast section you will find the podcasts and all the items that we are discussing and will have ongoing discussions about each week.

You can also follow Smy Goodness on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr. I'd like to thank Ashley Palmer for use of his Roland R-09 and Matteo Borea for creating the music. Thank you for listening.