Sloe bark was allegedly used by the Benedictine monk Theophilus Presbyter (circa 1070-1125) to make ink.
Boiling the bark together with water and red wine, the concoction apparently stank to high heaven, a fact not improved by the addition of tree resin as a thickener. It was only when the dark mixture was placed in goats’ bladders and hung up to dry in the sun (producing an ink powder later dissolved for use in warm red wine) that his fellow monks could breathe freely again.
Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher and theologian who lived a century later, is also said to have brewed the objectionable ink to the same recipe, with which he is alleged to have written more than 10 million words… making sloes an important factor in the development of our writing culture…
In the digital age I have no goats’ bladders full of olfactorily offensive sloe bark ink hanging up to dry in the autumn sun… what I do have is sloes and Sloe Jam bubbling away… infinitely olfactorily preferable – the digitally written recipe will be coming next week: watch this space 🙂