Picking any wild autumn fruit is satisfying not only for the delicious results but also for the wholesome nature of the exercise. It can be solitary and contemplative or sociably competitive.
With sloe berries ripe for the picking, creating your very own sloe gin to bring a taste of the countryside inside can be a lot of fun and highly rewarding.
Now is the time to head to the hedgerows and start foraging for the small, plump purple berries currently weighing down blackthorn bushes.
Picturesque as foraging in hedgerows sounds though, you are just as likely to strike it lucky foraging on a golf course, a piece of wasteland or in a suburban garden.
As the blue fruit of the blackthorn bush, sloe berries are worth braving a few gashes from the bushes’ thorns to gather enough berries to make sloe gin.
If they are picked before the first frost the skins should be pricked to help release the flavour. After the first frost the skins will be split making pricking unnecessary.
A night in the freezer will replicate the effects of the first frost if pricking them doesn’t appeal.
Too tart to eat on their own, distillers steep them in gin to create a fruit liqueur that's sweetened by adding sugar or honey, and then matured for several months to produce a jammy, tart spirit that's most famously enjoyed in a Long Peddler, a simple mix of sloe gin and bitter lemon.
Once you've picked your sloes, we suggest this homemade sloe gin needs at least three months to mature, so is best enjoyed in January (well they don't call it slow gin for nothing).
• 75ml sterilized bottle
• 100g white sugar
• 1 bottle of your favourite gin
• Plenty of sloe berries.
Pour clean, washed sloes into the bottle to around the 7cm mark.
(Some say to prick the berries or freeze them first, either method is optional)
Add in the white sugar
Top with gin.
Over the following weeks, gently tip the bottle up from time to time to dissolve the sugar slowly.
Keep out of direct sunlight and pat yourself on the back when you pour the first glass.
If you are just wanting to enjoy some without all of that hassle, time or effort here is our hand-picked Scottish made recommendations to buy and use in cocktails...
"Our sloe gin has been two years in the making - the first year of experiments and the second year allowing the gorgeous berries to steep in our Autumn Edition, "says Martin Murray, co-founder, Rock Rose Gin. "The blackberries and elderberries really complement the sloes providing a unique taste."
Rich and fruity with a smooth, warming finish, try serving Scottish Sloe Gin (£25, 50cl, Dunnet Bay Distillers) with rosemary or blackberry, or using it as the perfect base for a less traditional sloe gin fizz:
50ml Rock Rose Sloe Gin
25ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
1 egg white
Half fill a shaker with ice. Add the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and egg white. Shake well and strain into a glass. Top with champagne and garnish with a lemon rind.
Gin Bothy founder Kim Cameron said: "Our Scottish Gin is infused with fresh sloes handpicked in Scotland with hints of wild blaeberry from our iconic heather moors. A smooth liqueur, it’s great neat on ice or in your hip flask."
For every 50cl bottle of Sloe Gin (20% abv) sold, The Gin Bothy will donate £1 to Scottish Gamekeepers Association Charitable Trust for moorland education and Angus Glens Moorland Group.
A spokesperson for Pickering's said: "Our award-winning Pickering’s Gin has been rested over sloe berries for 12 months to lend just the right amount of dry spice to the rich, sweet flavour of sloe berries.
"The resulting spirit is a wonderfully smooth, slightly spicy sip with flavours of red cherry and toasted almonds."
Bottled in a 70cl size and coming in at 30% abv its as enjoyable served neat over ice as it is splashed into a glass of Prosecco.