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Sloe jelly recipe: a taste of the wild

Sloe jelly (or sloe jam, if you prefer) is almost unknown, which is a shame because it’s quite possibly the finest fruit jam you can make; tart, tangy and mysteriously dark. Sloes grow on blackthorn bushes, which are prickly customers at the best of times, and ordinarily you wouldn’t get much jelly for your trouble. Happily there’s a cheat, which is the addition of cooking apples. Apple brings out the flavour of the sloes and mellows their bitterness, helps the jam to set, and plumps the jam out to three times its original volume, making those prickly little prizes go a lot further. You can also get very similar results using bullaces instead of sloes; the flavour isn’t quite so good but the bushes are less thorny and tend to yield more heavily.

Sloe jelly, image

How to make sloe jelly

  1. Weigh your crop of pricked, frozen or frosted sloes in a saucepan. Add just enough water to cover the fruit, bring to the boil, and simmer until the berries are pulpy (you may need to mash them a bit).
  2. Add twice the weight of washed, chopped apples (peel, core and all), and the juice and peel of half a lemon for every kilo (2 lbs) of apples. Bring to the boil, simmer until pulpy again, and leave to cool down a bit.
  3. Strain the pulp through a scalded jelly bag or fine muslin into a suitable container. You shouldn’t squeeze the bag to hurry it up or you will have cloudy jelly, so leave it to dribble through overnight.
  4. The next day, measure the juice and add 400g of sugar per 500ml (1lb per pint). Stir it over a medium heat until it comes to the boil, and skim off any scum.
  5. Boil the liquid until it reaches setting point (you can use a sugar thermometer for this, or just keep checking it with a cold plate), then ladle into hot jars and seal.

Sloe jelly, or sloe jam?

Brits and Americans mean exactly the same thing when they use the words jam and jelly, the first having fruit pulp included, the second being strained off the pulp. Where the confusion occurs is that Brits use the word “jam” as a catch-all term for both products; whereas in the US “jelly” is the equivalent term. Either way, this recipe makes sloe jelly because you strain it off the pulp.

Sloe gin jelly

One of the nice things about this jelly is that you can use sloes that have been drained out of sloe gin; you might expect there to be less taste to them, but you’d be wrong. The recipe is exactly the same, but the gin gives a richness and complexity of flavour to the jelly that might surprise you. As an optional extra, you can add a couple of tablespoonfuls of Crème de Cacao Brown for every 500g (1lb) of sloes just before you pour it into the jars. Go on, give it a try!

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15 Responses to “Sloe jelly recipe: a taste of the wild”

  1. vera says:

    what is Creme de Cacao Brown where can ibuy it

  2. Ailis says:

    Hi,
    Delighted to get a recipe to use up the gin or vodka soaked sloes. It always felt wrong to just chuck them when decanting my sloe gin/vodka! I will definitly give this a go later in the year. Great and informative site!

  3. Carol says:

    Thank you for an excellent recipe! Makes a great jelly, rich plumb flavour, beautiful colour and clear.

    Found the jelly easy to make, used an old pillow case as a jelly bag. Had 2 1/2 lb sloes and 5 lbs of chopped apple, made 5 lb of jelly.

    Highly recommended. Good on bread or as a jelly for mutton.

  4. Claudia says:

    Thank for the recipe.

    I will try it this afternoon, first time I’ll make them into jelly.

    Our house has two enormous trees/bushes of Norwegian sloes, they look more like old little trees. Anyway, I make wonderful liquors every year, using both plain alcohol, Scandinavian vodkas but mostly cachaças a clear sugar cane based spirit. I am not sure you are familiar, but cachaça is an older cousin of rum but has a sweeter and more delicate taste, a more vodka-like flavor. I would be arrested for this comparison in Brasil.
    Every year I also make sloe jam, removing the little stones from every little sloe is one of the most difficult jobs I have ever put myself to. The result is delicious, but not as good as the jam I make with the fruits used to make the liquor.

    However, this year I gave up, the harvest we have picked this week is sweet, rich and huge, we have more than hundred kilos of fruits on my counter right now and the trees are still filled with sloes…

    After carefully selecting the perfect ones for liquor, I use the others for jam, but not today, I will try this jelly.

    I love to eat sloes, they are very sweet this year, it is just like mini plums.

    All the best.

    • Mark Gatter says:

      Hi Claudia,
      I haven’t around to sloes this year (and may not) as my list of other things to do is too long – but given the quantity you mention I wonder if there’s a better way to extract the stones. Could you tell me how you’re going about it, for instance if it’s pre- or post-cooking? There must be some way to make it easier.

  5. Jane says:

    I just made this recipe using sloes from our sloe vodka which we strained and bottled up this weekend after making in October. It seemed like a shame to just throw the vodka infused sloes away, and, having to buy a kilo of apples seemed a little thing to get the jewel like pots of sloe and Apple Jelly. Thanks very much for the recipe, it brought out the alchemist in me and will remind us of our winter spent in Weimar Germany when we return to England in the spring with our momentoes.

  6. Catherine says:

    Have just picked a takeaway carton each of sloes and blackberries although I still have a freezer full of earlier picked blackberries and the bumper crop of sloes from last year. Found this site when looking for inspiration having already made some blackberry rum and sloe gin. Thought I’d share with you a jam I made last weekend to use all the previous years’ blackberries. Had no apples and besides wanted a truly blackberry-tasting jam.
    Blackberries of course have little pectin but found that quinces are high (I had 3 on my tree and used one grated for this jam) and also damsons (I had found a tub in the freezer foraged I can’t remember when). So combined them all plus a lemon to make a jam which I rubbed through a colander. A few pips but not many at all. Set beautifully and tastes all blackberry. Might combine today’s sloes and blackberries and see if an acceptable jam ensues.
    Shall definitely use the gin-soaked sloes to make something later next year. Never did like throwing them out.

  7. Catherine says:

    OK just finished the jam – added a lemon to the blackberries and sloes. Gorgeous flavour, good set but of course the tannin in the sloes is noticeable. I think it may be tolerable given the lovely flavour. Still very hot but will try on toast later.

  8. H says:

    Hi!
    I’m making the recipe now, but was wondering about the amount of liquid I should have after straining. I did 1 kg sloe/2 kg apple. There is almost no liquid at all (maybe 1 cup). Should I have added water at step #2 when I put the apples in to cook with the sloes? Thanks!

    • Andy McKee says:

      Sure – if things are looking a bit dry you can add water or perhaps 1/4 strength lemon juice. It wants to end up pourable but not runny – you’ll get the hang of it.

  9. H says:

    Well, they say patience is a virtue! By the next day, there in fact was one liter of “juice” and it turned out great. Thanks for the advice and sharing the recipe!

  10. Glenys says:

    I have just harvested my crop of sloes and found your recipe. Thank you very much.

    Don’t forget the other Brit meaning of jelly – the wobbly thing on a plate children devour at parties!

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