Sloes ripen between September-November. I picked mine at the start of October in 2014. All year round, look out for bushes with the characteristic leaves and spines in your area, and keep a close eye on them in Autumn. You can test sloes for ripeness just like you would any other soft fruit – they shouldn’t be too hard or too squishy! Most recipes involve pricking the sloes, but freezing them solid ruptures the flesh and skin thoroughly, allowing their flavour and colour to seep into the gin. Adding a crushed almond highlights the almondy note in the sloes. You should wait until the sloes have soaked in the gin before adding syrup, so you can adjust the gin to your taste.