Raising a glass to winter

TODAY Andrea and I decanted the sloe gin that we made during the autumn... We discovered some heavily laden sloe bushes in Victoria Park back in October and filled our pockets and even our caps with them, getting soaked by the rain in the process. We brought the whole lot home, washed them, pricked them with pins and threw them into two bottles, each half filled with Gordon's Gin and some sugar.

This weekend it's harvest time. Anyone who darkens our door over the festive season is welcome to a slurp. Here's a poem by Seamus Heaney on the very subject:



The clear weather of juniper

darkened into winter.

She fed gin to sloes

and sealed the glass container.


When I unscrewed it

I smelled the disturbed

tart stillness of a bush

rising through the pantry.


When I poured it

it had a cutting edge

and flamed

like Betelgeuse.


I drink to you

in smoke-smirled, blue-black,

polished sloes, bitter

and dependable.