A recipe for Sloes that isn’t Gin – Pear and Sloe Treacle Tart
Now that Sloes are filling the hedgerows I decided to wanted to make something a bit different. Much of what was online included the typical Sloe Gin, Sloe Rum or Sloe Syrups, however I wanted to combine both the sloes I had collected and the abundance or pears in the garden. As Sloes produce a more bitter flavour, I decided on a pudding that (for me) is a little too sweet, which the sloes will help to counteract – Treacle Tart. This spin off of a famous desert has turned out so great it’s a struggle to have only one slice!
What are Sloes?
Sloes are the fruit of the Blackthorn, a thorny small tree that is often found in hedgerows. The purple/ black round fruits have a dusty appearance and have a large stone in the center. These fruits are not sweet, so tend to be cooked with sugar or added to alcohol to make them palatable.
When to pick?
There is a lot of speculation as to when is the best time to pick sloes, and in my opinion this depends on what you are going to use them for. Popular opinion states that the sloes should be picked after the first frost. This is likely to be more a measurement of time, allowing the sloes to get fully ripe and hence, have the most flavour. When making gin this is also a useful technique as this enables the skin of the berries to split with ease making the process of preparing sloe gin an easier and less laborious process.
This year we have had a remarkable amount of sun and hence the berries are plump and ripe. I am using the sloes in my recipe to make a normally very sweet pudding and little less sweet, hence slightly earlier in the season was a perfect time to pick.
Making the syrup
Although wanting to make something different, it was almost impossible to get away with not making the trusty sloe syrup. There are so many recipes online for this, but I just wanted a basic syrup with no added spices as an addition to my tart. The process was so easy using just 3 ingredients, the sloes were cooked up with dark brown sugar and water.
The quantities I used in the recipe below makes enough syrup for 2 tarts, or extra syrup to be used in other recipes, as a cordial or a topping for porridge (Recently I have been adding most things I forage to my porridge!).
Making the pastry
If needs be, this is a step you can skip. You can get excellent pre-made shortcrust pastry, and it makes the whole process of baking (especially if you are a beginner) more approachable. I went about making the pastry, using a combination of plain white flour, wholemeal and oatmeal. This gave a wonderful crumbly wholesome crust. It is a little difficult to handle, but don’t worry if it breaks when transferring to the tin, moulding it into cracks and holes is a totally acceptable and viable solution. A pre-bake is required for the crust before the filling is added. To maintain the shape baking beads, lentils or rice are often used to weigh down the pastry and create the pie shape.
Making the filling
This part is fairly straight forward. I used a combination of golden syrup and sloe syrup with a 50/50 spilt. For me this was the perfect level of sweetness, not too sweet but also not too tart. The syrups are combined with bread crumbs, oats and egg to create a gooey filling for the tart base.
The finishing touches
Before baking add some thin slices of pear to the top and sprinkle demerara sugar across the surface to create a crispy caramalised surface. This pie can be eaten cold or warm and goes nicely with a serving of cream or a ball of ice cream.
How will you be using sloe’s this year?
Pear and Sloe Treacle Tart
An adaptation on the traditional treacle tart that is a little less sweet and uses some foraged goodies!