On a dark November evening,
you and your lover get together
the sloes, sugar, gin, empty vessel
and spread out on a long kitchen table.
The fruit of the prunus spinosa
dark, bitter, impossible to swallow,
mellows after the first hard frost,
softens in sweet sugar.
Take good handfuls of the berries
roll them in the hollow of your palm,
weigh your treasure, test for firmness,
finger smooth, lustrous skin.
With forks, preferably silver, prick
one at a time, pierce again and again,
drop into pure spirit. As the juices flow,
pale white transforms to deep magenta.
Bottle the magic. Store in a cool place
away from bright light, curious gaze.
Day after day, go back and agitate,
stir the jar's contents to ruby red.
At Christmas time in hearth's glow,
after long, languid maturing,
pour out your precious jewel,
sip together, feel the heat.
Lindsay Balderson was born in Darlington, and lives there still. She has been a member of the writing and performance collective Vane Women since 2001. In 2005 she gained an M.A. in Creative Writing from Newcastle University and her first poetry pamphlet Stripping the Blackthorn was launched in 2008.
As well as having pieces published on line, Lindsay has poems in various anthologies; Northern Grit, Rewriting the Map, Collecting Stones, Love in Vane (Vane Women Press), Newcastle Masters (Newcastle University) and A Sudden Clatter of Voices (Ottakars). She is currently working towards her first full collection.
"This piece is a reflection of one of my favourite annual rituals when, having first delved deep into the countryside on a (hopefully) bright but chilly day to harvest the sloes (described in its sister poem Stripping the Blackthorn), you get to huddle up warm to produce a favourite winter tipple."
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'Making Sloe Gin © 2011 Lindsay Balderson: used with permission.
Copyright of this poem remains with the poet: please do not download or republish without permission.