I’ve been looking out for sloes all season with the anticipation of turning out a batch of Sloe Gin, but just haven’t discovered any. What I do have in bucket loads are plums (- when we moved into the house we must have taken down 2 dozen self-set plum trees and left the 2 most mature), and every season we spend a huge amount of effort raking up the fallen plums & throwing them on the compost heap. This year I had a plan – at least some of these plums would be put to good use, and if I couldn’t find any sloes, then surely a Plum Gin would be very similar?
Well, not quite. Unlike other liqueurs I’ve experimented with over the last few months, there is much less difference between the vodka and gin base, but the gin does provide a better complement to the plum flavours and is my favourite. What this liqueur does have is the most amazing aroma which is very much like almonds. I’m assuming comes from the plum stone kernels rather than the wife spiking my drinks with hydrogen cyanide…
At the end of the maceration process you’re left with a nice pile of plums which are still full of juice AND spirit. You can squeeze this out, but it will make your liqueur cloudy. Instead, why not through the fruit into a pan with some sugar, a couple of cloves & a cinnamon stick and cook down to create a wonderful plum sauce that makes a great base for a crumble!
Makes 900 ml
- 800g Plums
- 200g White Sugar
- 70cl Spirit (reasonable quality Vodka or Gin, 37.5% ABV min)
- Place the plums on a board and stab with a fork
- In a sterilized Kilner Jar, add the plums and sugar
- Pour over the spirit. Seal the jar and shake well
- Over the next 2-3 days, shake periodically until the sugar has dissolved, then store the jar in a dark cupboard for 3 months
- Strain the mixture through a muslin and check the sweetness – bottle up and add extra sugar if required. DON’T DISCARD THE PLUMS!
- Store for another month or more before drinking
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60 Comments Add yours
The smell of almonds is because plum stones and alcohol MAKES ARSENIC !! You should de-stone the plums first…….
Hi Mike – Fair challenge –
Plum kernels (pits), like those of peaches, apricots, sloes,damsons, cherries, almonds and even apple pips (in fact anything from the rose family, including rose hips) contain cyanoids, which can potentially release trace amounts of cyanide (not arsenic, but I get your point!).
Research has shown that ingesting quantities of these pits are particularly dangerous to dogs and farm animals, but the risk to humans are extremely low. Bitter Almonds have the greatest levels of toxicity – apparently eating around 70 pits in one go will make you quite ill.
Peaches have a similar level of cyanoids to plums. Apparently the tolerable level of pure cyanide is around 10.8mg per Kg bodyweight, per day. So for a 75Kg individual you’d need to be consuming around 1Kg of pits per day for this to start causing any problems, assuming all of the cyanoids are leached out and converted into pure cyanide. But this isn’t going to happen – we’re not talking about plums leaching pure cyanide, it’s even less of a risk.
I’d suggest that if anyone is consuming enough cyanide to do themselves any harm from this recipe, they’ll be suffering from alcohol poisioning long before!
Also consider that commercial Sloe Gin manufacturers will leave fruit, with stones macerating for 12 months.
The risk is very low, and the human body has remarkable ways of dealing with these kinds of things. However, if anyone is concerned, you can remove the stones beforehand (this is easiest to do if the plums are frozen first). It will impact the flavour & I wouldn’t recommend this though.
Hi James, have just finished making a batch of plum gin and a batch of Vodka gin, they taste amazing. My question is, I made them before I read the comment from Mike above. Are they really safe to drink? I would hate to make anyone ill? Sorry to sound like a worrywart, but obviously safety is really important.
Hi Gill – I really wouldn’t worry, it’s a bit of an old wives tale. Too much of anything will make you ill. The alcohol will be doing much more damage! I’ve been brewing this for a while and giving it away – no complaints of any kind 🙂
Sorry I meant Plum Gin and Plum Vodka!
Thanks for clarifying James! I actually asked my Dad last night who has been making Damson Gin for years and he laughed his head off. Feel a bit daft now!! Thanks again and have a lovely Christmas!
Have just made some plum gin to your recipe. I used a large size kilner jar, my plums and sugar just about filled the jar but I seem to have used very little gin!! puzzeled??
I wouldn’t worry too much Alice, just as long as the fruit is covered with liquid. It will settle down a bit. When you come to finally remove the fruit, top with the remaining Gin at that stage rather than taking any of the fruit out. Some of my biggest disappointments have come from too little fruit in the mix – I don’t think you can have too much!
Gathered a couple of kilos of plums from my friends tree, and she just emailed me her recipe – half the amount of plums, and double the gin!
I suppose it’s ‘Horses for courses’ – You can vary the proportions of fruit to suit your tastes or your supply, but one of the greatest learnings I took from my initial experiment was that there’s nothing more disappointing than cracking open that batch of liqueur after months of patient waiting, only to find that it doesn’t really taste of much. I had this problem with several of my recipes the first time around, and immediately doubled the quantity of fruit in subsequent batches. Since then I’ve been satisfied with the proportions – it works a treat for me – I like the full on fruitiness 🙂
Great recepie, thanks for for sharing. I made some last year and came out well. This year I’m making one batch with expencive gin (Bombay Saphire) and one with a cheep brand.
Thanks Jonathan – let me know how that works out. It would be good to know if you can really tell the difference!
Well, there actually is a difference in the two batches. I used the same plums and identical amounts of sugar.
The batch based on Bombay Safire has a slightly deeper red colour and the flavours are slightly more intense and more complex, the aroma is also more intense.
The cheep gin gave a slightly lighter color and slightly less flavour. But that said, it’s still very nice.
I blind tested them on the wife and she confirmed my opinion.
Just been given a bag of plums and I have a bottle of gin. Only thing missing is a Kilmer jar, damn! Can’t wait to get set making this in time for Christmas
Also I’m the lucky owner of 10 Demi johns complete with airlocks. Would be very grateful of you could point me in the direction of some good wine recipes…elderberry perhaps?
My dad used to make up big batches of Elderberry Port when I was young, we had it bubbling away under the stairs. I remember it being really good, but I never got his recipe. Fruit wines are not something i’ve really tried, so I can’t give you a recommendation as such, but it may be worth checking out this thread from ‘Grow fruit & veg’ or maybe this blog.
As for Kilner Jars, of course you can use any container which can be sealed. Any large pickling jar or even use one of the demijohns. For smaller fruit, I use a 1ltr vodka bottle. Of course, for the larger fruit if you damage it too much, it’s likely to start to break down into the spirit. Not at all bad, but it will make it a little cloudy so some care would be needed when it comes to bottling up, or maybe a noter round of filtering
Years ago we used to make all sorts of different wines and one year collected so many elderberries on one of our canal walks (no road fumes so very clean). We bought a five gallon container and duly the wine. when it was ready for bottling we ‘fortified’ half of it with vodka …. oh wow was it good. Many years later whilst clearing the garage for our house move we found a few bottles of this potent stuff (probably 20 years old, we didn’t open it let alone taste it but do wonder what it would have been like and if it would have been safe.
You mention making a plum sauce with them once the vodka is ready… Do you think it’s possible to make plum jam instead? It wouldn’t be overbearingly alcoholic would it?
Yes, it would be possible to make a jam. Heating the plums would burn off most of the alcohol but I’m sure it would still add a little something extra 🙂
I have prepared my first batches using plums from my own tree and after just a few days one or two of the plum have turned and appear rotten? Do I break the seal and fish them out or will they be ok?
The plums do discolour very quickly (particularly where they poke through the top of the liquid), but this is expected and doesn’t cause any problems. As long as the seal is good and the fruit submerged it should be fine – give the jar a shake periodically
Question… I followed the above recipe. Using Plums and Gin. I have had the mix in a jar for several days and notice that it is bubbling slightly. I assume that there is some fermentation going on. Is this OK or is the batch a bust?
Hi Tim, as the fruit starts to break down and the sugar dissolve you will see some gas bubbles. This may continue for a few days but shouldn’t be excessive. If there are lots you may need to break the seal to release some pressure, but it shouldn’t come to that. A ‘worst case scenario’ would be that there was sufficient wild yeasts trapped on the skins of the plums to start fermentation, but this isn’t very likely
I have made this recipe last year & everyone Who tried it, loved every sip! So goooooddddd! X
Just made this recipe, what do I do with the plums when I have saved them?
Hi Graham, As I suggest in the intro, the plums are nicely macerated and can be stewed down to make a great sauce. How about a base for a fruit crumbled or a stir into some ice cream to make some boozy plum ripple?
Thanks for the reply James, looking forward to plum gin crumble !!
I made 2 batches of the plum gin & 1 of the vodka at the weekend (not an alcoholic, just trying to “use up” an excess of plums! I am shaking it all daily BUT, although there is plenty of liquor, there are plums bobbing on the surface each day and they are turning black. Is this alright or do I have a problem?
It’s not a problem Ella, the fruit above the liquid will discolour but as long as the container is sealed it won’t cause any issues. Keep up with the regular shaking!
Has anyone got any cocktail recepies to try this with, it’s great on its own over ice but wanted to try something else.
1 1/2 oz Gin
1 oz Plum liqueur
1 oz Pink grapefruit juice
2 lime wedges
Squeeze lime wedges into a shaker and add the other ingredients. Fill with ice, shake until shaker is freezing. Strain into a chilled glass, (coupe or martini).
Thanks Tim. Don’t suppose anyone can also advise abv for this as well?
Just bottled up my first batch of plum gin made from your recipe…it is fab! I only made a small amount with the intention of giving as wee gifts at Christmas but I now want to keep it all for myself………..dilemma!
Wonderful! Hide it away, it improves with age. You’ll have to make extra next year 🙂
Just bottled our first batch, for our taste didn’t add extra sugar, tastes good. It is a bit cloudy but wonder is this will settle now it is bottled.
It should be just fine Alice – it will settle out over time. I now use a triple layer of muslin and 2 layers of kitchen paper to strain the liquor through and it comes out quite clear.
What size Kilner jar did you use?
Hi Sharon, my Kilner jars hols about 1.5ltr, which is perfect for these proportions
Hi Tim, I’ve just put down 2 litres of plum gin using your recipe. The plums on the surface are turning black where they peep through the gin. I thought it was going off and would have to throw it out but decided to check with you first. So glad I did! Many thanks.
It should be fine – I have the same on mine, just a little oxidation. Give the jar a little shake to move the fruit around every now and again. If you have it out in the open, putting the jar somewhere out of the light may help a little too – this is a good idea generally to prevent the liquor from losing it’s brilliant colour!
OK – recipe found and followed! The plums had been frozen for 2 weeks so were a bit squidgy when defrosted – hopefully that means the juice will leach out nicely
Definitely going to try this one, my sloe gin always gets finished too quickly as sloes are quite hard to find unless it is a very good year!
For info. Granny always managed to keep hers for at least a year, hidden in the cellar, without decanting and administered it to the girls in the family as a remedy for acute period pains. Worked a treat and we certainly had no ill effects from poisoning from the stones
Tip: If you find too many sloes in the Autumn, pick the lot and freeze them and do a second batch after Christmas.
I added some juniper berries and a few slithers of orange peel to the bottles, 2015, and this worked a treat, giving a lovely little edge to the liqueur.
I think I will do the same with some plums. Plum and Orange Jam works perfectly and a Gin and Orange was once quite popular so I do not for see a problem with this marriage. Should be ready for Easter.
Just tasted our first attempt at this, and it’s delicious! I’ll definitely be making it again. We left the plums in the spirit for about 4 months, and then used them to make a rather excellent jam.
Hi James – I have just picked a huge amount of my dad’s delicious dark plums – they are so sweet on their own I wondered if I need to add sugar to the plums and gin mix? Will it work without sugar? And what’s the difference between plum gin and plum liqueur please?
Hi Helen, the amount of sugar is very much a matter of personal taste. I’d still recommend you add some as this creates the slightly syrupy consistency that I’d associate with fruit spirits, but you don’t need to add a lot. Personally I don’t think that the amount I use is a lot – I’ve seen other recipes with much more, but these just don’t work for me. What you can do is start with a small amount and let the fruit steep for a few months, then after straining but before bottling give it a taste test. If it’s not sweet enough dissolve some sugar in a little hot water to create a strong syrup and add to taste 🙂
The only difference between the plum gin & liqueur is the spirit used. Gin can be a bit of an acquired taste and if you want the true taste of the fruit, a neutral spirit such as vodka works well. If course you can use other spirits if you wish – Rum, Brandy, Whisky,… I’ve not experimented with these but the process would be just the same.
Enjoy your great fruit!!
HI James, thanks so much for your reply. I actually decided to make it before I read this and more or less just bunged it in a jar and will hope for the best! I just added enough plums that were covered by the gin and a couple of tablespoons of caster sugar which has already dissolved. The gin is already a wonderful colour and I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait for 3 months before trying it! Also looking forward to the boozy plums afterwards. Thanks again, Helen
Hello James, wonder if you can help me. We went looking for sloes last week, not to pick yet but just to see what was happening in our picking area! we saw some berries on bushes which ‘looked’ like sloes (leaves and berries) but there were no spines on the stems. Seem to remember years ago picking something like this putting them into gin and the result was just awful so was thrown away. Do you have any idea what these may be?
Hi James. We have massive quantities of plums on our tree – so many I can’t deal with them all at once. Is it possible to make plum gin from frozen plums &, if so, should I de-stone them first?
Hi Ann – I’m really jealous, I had loads on my tree as well this year but when I got back from holiday, they’d all spoilt!
I don’t see why using from frozen would be a problem, the only thing that occurs to me is that the fruit is more likely to break down after being frozen, so more care may be needed when straining it off or it’s likely to be a bit cloudy. Personally I’d leave the stones in as I believe that add to the flavour. Enjoy you plums!
Thank you James. Having bitten into a few of what looked like perfect plums & finding grubs inside, I’m definitely going to halve them first! I’ll leave the stone in though.
Can you add vanilla to make plum and vanilla flavoured gin and how much should I add to say I Ltr jar And what kind of vanilla. Pod or drops ? Many thanks
Sure – I expect that would be a nice compliment of flavours. I add vanilla pods to vodka to make my own vanilla extract and its very potent! You won’t need much – I’d add maybe half a pod to get a background flavour
Would adding a Camden tablet help with killing any bacteria and would you add it at the start of the process? I use them in my elderflower cordial as a just in case?