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Long sloe run

September 7, 2015
View towards Cambridge

View towards CambridgeCambridge and the surrounding fenland has a justly-earned reputation for being flat, but within easy reach of the city outskirts the Gog Magog hills make a natural destination for the long Sunday run.

Wandlebury Country Park sits on the summit of the hill, a small wooded estate riddled with interesting dirt tracks, a few of which wend their way to Roman Road. After the romantic and myth-laden origin of the hills’ name, Roman Road comes as something of a disappointment. It is, after all, a Roman road; a dirt trail that stretches unerringly straight for around 5km over undulating ground. It makes for a nice route extension, and endlessly improves the aesthetic of a run.

Gates leading to the trails of Wandlebury Country Park

Gates leading to the trails of Wandlebury Country Park

Now we’re in late summer – I’m refusing to say ‘autumn’ just yet, despite a particularly cool snap this weekend – the hedgerows that line my weekend trail routes are laden down with all sorts of wild crops. Blackberries, elderberries, rosehips, apples, cherries and sloes weigh down branches, plump gems glittering richly in the early afternoon sun.

I’ve often thought running was one of the best ways of getting to know an area and picking out things we might like to visit later, so having found a stretch of bush particularly laden-down with sloes, we returned armed with tupperware boxes. And so, apropos of nothing, here’s the recipe we’re using to make our first ever batch of sloe gin.

Recipe

500g of sloes

350g of sugar (we used 150g caster sugar and 200g of jam sugar – purely because that was what we had, rather than out of design)

1 litre of gin

We pricked the sloes all over, one-by-one, listening to the radio for a half-hour or so. You can freeze the fruit, which will split the skins, but that felt like cheating somehow. Once we’d pricked the sloes and put them into a big sealable jar, we poured over the sugar (briefly thought that those jam sugar grains looked particularly large, but they’ll probably dissolve just fine) and then emptied a large bottle of gin over the whole lot.

Having sealed the jar – and checked carefully that it actually was properly sealed – we shook the mixture until the sloes just settled at the bottom of the jar with the grains of sugar and the gin had turned a disappointing thin brown. This jar will continue to be shaken on a regular basis until early November, when we’ll strain out the damsons and decant the (hopefully) delightfully purple gin into bottles.

I’ve not tried making sloe gin before, so the next two months will either be for nothing when the concoction ends up a disappointing petrol alternative, or a worthwhile endeavour when the resultant batch is extremely palatable. And so we end on a cliffhanger…

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