Archive | December, 2015

Home Spun Christmas Presents

30 Dec

Two years ago I got it into my head that it would be a cute and quirky idea to make my nearest and dearest some home made plot pickle for their Christmas presents. A whole day of boiling vinegar ensued not to mention sterilizing jars, filling them, making labels and tops and I was left with several respectable looking jars of home made plot pickle that was much complemented by those who tried.

plot pickle

However once I had made my pickle I realised there was a real flaw in my plan – yes it was home made with love but really when someone is getting you an expensive lamp from John Lewis, is it acceptable to give them a jar of home made pickle in return?

So last year I didn’t bother and did the whole ‘I’ll click on your link if you click on mine’ style of Xmas pressie giving. This year I’d been on a week long retreat in which we contemplated simpler, frugal living, I witnessed a near death accident, my father-in-law sadly died and I took voluntary redundancy. This all happened in the run up to Christmas, the result being in November I sent out a fool hardy email to my nearest and dearest saying life is too short for lists. I’m going off list.

At the back of my mind I knew off-list would mean my second attempt at home spun presents. But I knew I needed something with a bigger wow factor than plot pickle, enter the idea of sloe gin.

It’s a laborious task but once the sloes are gathered it’s fairly low maintenance and it smells a lot nicer than eau de boiled vinegar. You just need to decide that you’re making it two months in advance. Come December I still found myself in a similar situation – wondering if a thimbleful of sloe gin really equated to a present and so I then went and panic bought a load of accompaniments to go with the sloe gin.

The result of all this is that my main reflection on home spun presents is that it actually it costs more money and takes up a lot more time and energy than buying from a designated list of options. Maybe the only way to do home spun presents is to be totally home spun with a knitted hamper of pickle, sloe gin and jam – unlikely that I will have the time do that anytime soon. However this did feel like quite a fun thing to do and was a nod to my granddad who used to make a similar concoction many years ago.

A pictorial guide to making Sloe Gin


Pick a load of sloes, enlist the children’s help, make a day of it in the countryside somewhere.


Wash and freeze the sloes – apparently this simulates a mock first frost, which in December we are still waiting for.

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Combine sloes, sugar and London Gin.

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Watch how the sugar slowly dissolves.


Shake daily for the first week or two, then shake weekly or whenever you remember.


Voila! Two months later you have a delightful liqueur.


Buy some overpriced bottles at a local shop, then worry that the tops don’t quite work and so then buy another batch of overpriced bottles online.


On the day you are bottling the sloe gin make the realisation you haven’t made any labels, and time has now completely run out. Cut up an old piece of card and enlist a trusty Bic biro and a hole punch for that genuine home spun look.


Behold! A battalion of Sloe Gin.

TIP: Don’t quality test the contents before doing a mock hazard perception test online, it will really sloe you down! The verdict so far has been it’s strong stuff and smells a bit like alcoholic vimto but I now have a new favourite Christmas drink. I gave my first bottle to a friend. It felt very grown up giving home made sloe gin, it’s fair to say I had a bit of a swagger. Let’s hope the family like my home spun efforts this year too but next year they may be happy to hear I think I’ll be going back on list!

Happy New Year and thanks for following in 2015. Here’s to a healthy, fruitful and plot-active 2016!