The sloes have been so prodigious this year I have been itching to go out there and pick a potful in order to stoke up my first batch of sloe gin. It's recommended to wait until after the first frosts to pick your sloes, or prick each one individually in order to break the skin and allow the flavour out.
If, like me, you are not confident that you will be organised enough to pick on demand, or you are too impatient to wait, you can do it the cheat's way and put your sloes in the freezer overnight.
Once they have defrosted, combine about a pound of sloes with a pound of sugar and steep in 600ml of gin or thereabouts. Put them into a large jar and stir, then put the lid on. This is how they look at first:
Within hours the colour will start to seep out - a glorious beetrooty pink. Stir or shake every day for a week, then once a week for the next two or three months. Strain the gin through muslin or coffee filters before decanting into sterilised bottles. Keep it longer for a better flavour - 18 months if you can resist!
The sloes can then be steeped in cider to make 'slider'; made into chutney; pureed for ice-cream; baked into cakes etc etc.