We spent the past weekend on the South Downs - mostly walking (mmm, let's say putting one foot in front of the other on the homebound trek at 2 in the morning while surprising a sleeping grouse and more than a few cows along the way) , eating and drinking but also picking a shedload of sloes. The conditions were just right - frosty at night but bright sunny days. About a month ago I was very pleased to find just enough sloes on the lane leading to the allotment to make one bottle of gin. I picked them then and there because I knew that they would be gone by the time we had a frost in London. (Daddy Schlingmann wisely pointed out a few years ago that putting the fruit in the freezer overnight achieved the same end.) Anyway, there are now several gallons of the stuff, steeping quietly, in the far corner of the kitchen.