Sloes- black magic and gin!

The common name blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) comes from the sharp thorns and dark bark of the shrub.  Its other name sloe may be from the old high German slêha meaning ‘bluish’, the colour of the fruit, or may be related to the words slay and strike, as it was used to make heavy clubs. Witches were reputed to carry black rods of blackthorn; the sorcerer Major Weir was burned at the stake in 1670 with his blackthorn rod.  The thorns of the blackthorn were used for pricking wax images for cursing. In Christian lore, Christ’s crown of thorns was made of blackthorn. The pretty flowers are a harbinger of early spring, and appear before the leaves, but in superstition to take them into the house invites death. It was also bad luck to wear the flowers in your buttonhole. In Germany, blackthorn was burned on Walpurgis night to ward off evil spirits.

The tart berries can be made into wine or liqueur, especially sloe gin, as well as syrups, jellies and jams. The leaves or dried fruits can be made into tea. The flowers may be crystallised for cake decoration. The berries yield a red dye.

Blackthorn flower or berry infusion can be used as a gargle for mild inflammation of the mouth and throat, tonsillitis, or drunk as an expectorant for coughs.  Sloe syrup is a laxative and diuretic in cases of constipation.

CAUTION: Sloes can be toxic in large quantities. Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.

Sloe Gin

8 oz. sloes

14 fl. oz. gin

4 oz. sugar

I wait until the first frost before gathering the berries, but if you want to be sure of getting some, you can pick them as soon as they ripen.  Remove the stalks and wash the fruit. Either prick the sloes or put them into the freezer for 24 hours. Put them into a screw top jar (they should take up no more than half the space), layering with the sugar.  Put on the lid and shake to dissolve the sugar.  You can strain and bottle after 3 months, but it much better if you leave the fruit in for at least 6 months.  If you can, leave it to mature at least a year before drinking. You can substitute whisky, vodka or brandy for gin, if you prefer.


Author: annafranklinblog

Anna Franklin is the High Priestess of the Hearth of Arianrhod, which runs teaching circles, a working coven, and the annual Mercian Gathering, a Pagan camp which raises money for charity. She regularly speaks at conferences, moots and workshops around the country. She is the author of many books on witchcraft and Paganism, including the popular Pagan Ways Tarot, Sacred Circle Tarot, The Fairy Ring, Herb Craft, Magical Incenses and Oils, Personal Power, A Romantic Guide to Handfasting, Familiars, The Oracle of the Goddess, Hearth Witch, The Path of the Shaman and The Hearth Witch’s Compendium. Anna’s books have been translated into nine languages.

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