Maybe it's because I calm down a little when I am on vacation and am better able to take in more of the world around me, instead of being task-oriented and targeted like a laser ranging missile homing device (with just about the same amount of sensitivity and finesse, some people might say), but there seems to be a whole lot more stuff to eat out in the wilds of the UK compared to what I tend to spot on my average stroll through the woods back in the US.
Granted, the foraging culture is millenia old here.
Plus, the right to roam guarantees all people acess to most lands, public or private.
Try that in the US and you're likely to get shot. Or arrested. Or both. Or worse.
And honestly, it's pretty darned hard to forage through several feet of snow and ice in sub-zero temperatures, which is what we usually get out on the Great Plains. Just ask the poor deer, mid-winter, how they feel about the food availability situation. Compare that to the still-green and balmy UK.
So we went on a walk, to an iron-age hill fort on a hill nearby. Firstly, how rad is that? Secondly, imagine what kind of terror motivated people to pack up and move from the fertile, flat valley floor and relocate to the top of the highest hill around, then dig a giant trench around the whole thing, by hand, mind you, put up a giant wooden wall, and live there? Dude, I suddenly appreciate my 1950's ranch house a whole lot more.
We had a lovely 5-mile stroll and saw all manner of delightful scenery tasty eating options both running and growing: mushrooms (didn't know which were poisonous so we left those alone), pheasants (hiding in the hedge, to better scare the crap out of me when they flew out unexpectedly), and these lovelies, which are sloe berries.
I have been on a quest for a truly great sloe gin fizz since first learning of them, only a little over a year ago. Although at the time I thought it was slow gin fizz. I guess that shows my unworldliness in matters alcoholic.
I was suitably decked out in appropriate foraging gear: new wellies, wellie boot liners, plastic bag (not wearing but carrying). I come a little late to sloe gathering at this time of year, as most of the crop has already succumbed to other foragers or all manner of wee beastie, but it is imperative to wait until after the first frost or two, in order to give the blackthorns time to draw some of the bitterness from the berry back into the plant, and to let the freezing action help the sloe berries soften.
I braved the vicious and monstrously large thorns on the blackthorn to gather my sloes, and wound up with a respectable 800 grams for an hour or so of work (plus contributions from Proper Bacon and his mum).
The sloes need to be pricked all over to release the juice. You can use a fork, though custom decrees that the fork shall be made only of silver. Otherwise, pick yourself one of those nasty ginormous thorns (see above) and use that to prick the sloes, in a vengeful circle of irony. Or, use an old-school grater with the pointy bits on one side and roll the sloes on that. Or just bash the damn things in a bag.
Wash, dry and weigh your sloes, put in a suitable container with a leak-proof stopper, add half as much sugar, and cover with 4 to 5 times as much gin. The recipe gives you precise measures, but you can use whatever amount of sloe you manage to pick with this ratio. As a super bonus, use the very inebriated sloes from the gin to make jam or jelly.
The Sloe Gin must mature for quite a long while, and while I cunningly have a bottle ready at home, home is far away at the moment, so a Sloe Gin Fizz will be showing up on Jammy Chicken shortly after New Year. Watch for it! And here it is!
The remainder of the recipe, in interpretive style:
ShakeShakeShake! Shake! Shake! Shake!
450 grams or 1 pound sloes
225 grams or 8 ounces white sugar
1 liter or 1 3/4 pints gin (doesn't have to be best quality)
You will also need a 1.5 liter (or larger) bottle with a leak-proof lid and a needle, silver fork, or other way to prick the sloes.
Wash and dry the sloes.
Pierce the skin of each of the sloe berries several times and put into a sterilized bottle.
Add the sugar and gin.
Shake every day for 2 weeks, then shake once each week for an additional 2 months.
Strain out the sloes using muslin or a fine sieve, and decant the gin into another sterilized bottle.
Store for up to a year in a cool, dark place.