And seeing as we share a passion for the countryside as well as a postcode, we thought we’d spend a few moments with Sloemotion
’s founder, Joff Curtoys, to find out a little more about what goes on over the hedge…
Q: So how did it all begin?
It all began with an interest in wildlife and farming, and in how you could make a small arable farm more environmentally and economically sustainable. In 2002, we stopped the annual cutting of hedges on the farm in order to create thick, 'tangly' structures and help fruit production for wildlife. Suddenly, we saw lots of sloes appearing on the blackthorn in the hedges, and the idea emerged that this ancient fruit could be a crop and used to make a product on the farm; and Sloemotion was born.
Q: And what’s so special about North Yorkshire’s hedgerows?
The North Yorkshire hedgerows are not particularly ‘special’; there are just a lot of them!
Q: What did you do in your previous life? Was it a natural progression?
I’ve had a lifelong interest in wildlife and farming. In the UK, the two are inextricably linked; we have no wilderness here. I began my working life in the farming industry and then moved to be an agriculture policy advisor for the RSPB, before setting up a business on a farm growing and processing food in a way that helped wildlife too. It felt like natural progression for me!
Q: Talk us through the production process. How do the sloes get from hedge to bottle?
By definition, sloes are wild, so they are all hand-picked from the hedgerows. They are then immediately frozen (often people wait for the first frost before picking – this was valid before freezers were invented!). We then defrost and steep the fruit in our own Hedgerow Gin – flavoured with botanicals that also come from the hedges; things like elderflower, rosehips, nettle leaves and crab apple. We add sugar, and then stir regularly over a period of months. We keep the filtering to a minimum to retain as much flavour as possible and then bottle. Simple!