- Everyone will remember their first taste of a sloe.Mine was in the car park of a well known Scandinavian furniture merchant. We were trying to compose ourselves, ready for the nightmarish feat ahead of us. Going inside would be like entering a life-size popup version of the shop’s own catalogue. Like entering a hellish parallel dimension. We sat and supped on some refreshments and I couldn’t help but notice some grapelike berries on a nearby bush. They looked so appetising that I was certain of their edibility.
Fortunately, curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It did, however, make the cat’s mouth vortex inwards to a pixel of extreme sourness and astringent cottony spittle.
Some months later, Richard Mabey’s black and white illustration showed me where I had gone wrong and once Detective Inspector Frost had done his first patrol of the season, I was back at the car park to collect the bits and pieces for my very own flat pack liqueur.
I visited said spot yesterday and found the bush racked with loads of juicy winter olives, as expected. The long summery season had let them grow to massive sizes and all the leaves were gone, so scarring from those long vicious spikes was kept to a minimum.
This year’s hibernal hooch will be vodka, not gin. Mother’s ruin already has plenty of flavour; it’s that cheap supermarket vodka which really needs all the help, and should bypass that over-mediciney taste which some sloe gins can have.
It is strange that standing in full view of a busy car park, ripping berries from a thorny bush didn’t attract as much as a curious glance from the other customers. Although, I suppose that if the foraging bug had already hit them, they wouldn’t need to shop in that particular shop. Instead, they would be taking advantage of all that free furniture which seems to grow out of the pavements and in and around skips.