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June 24, 2003

Virtue rewarded
Posted by Teresa at 08:50 PM *

This one’s for Chuck Taggart.

I put up liqueurs just about every year. I go for the simple methods—no fermenting, no distilling. I’d like to try that, but I just don’t have the room and the time for it. So I do the dead simple kind, where you take strong distilled spirits, macerate flavoring materials in them until it be enough, strain the results, and temper it up with honey or sugar syrup. Put it in a good bottle, put a good cork in it, label it before you forget, and put it in the basement until it comes out right.

Yes, those are loose instructions. That’s how I cook.

If you want a dead simple recipe, take the thinly peeled-off zest of citrus fruit (but not blood oranges or pummelos or lavender gems), a leetle pinch of fresh mace or nutmeg, and a whole vanilla bean, and toss them into a bottle of vodka. I prefer Devil’s Springs brand, which is seriously overproof—the East Coast equivalent of Everclear. Wait a couple of weeks. Give it a shake once in a while. Strain, and dose with sugar syrup (2 c. sugar, 1 c. water, heat until it’s syrup). Let age a few months, though you can probably get away with drinking it in a few weeks.

Fruits may or may not have to macerate longer, but they do have to age longer. If you put up blackberry liqueur in blackberry season, it’ll get good just in time to do in everyone at your New Year’s party. Good blackberry liqueur is wicked stuff. The first time I made it, Patrick sampled the first bottle right before New Year’s. “Aw, too bad,” he said. “It tastes great, but all the alcohol has evaporated.”

I tried some myself. It tasted like sweet innocent summer fruit. Then my earlobes got hot. “We have a winner,” I said. We threw a hell of a New Year’s party that year. That was the year that Jerry Kaufman broke our broomstick, and Kathryn Howes and Rebecca Lesses broke one of our chairs while demonstrating wrestling moves, and Joanna Russ got into a whipped-cream fight, and Ole Kvern went home without his shoes when there was snow on the ground. There were bodies all over the carpet next morning.

But I digress.

I have a bottle sitting next to me here that’s labeled “Summer 2000”, since I couldn’t think of a better name for it at the time. The label says it’s made from basil, rose geranium, lemon verbena, the petals of Stanwell Perpetual roses, citrus peel, peppercorns, coriander, honey, quince jelly, vodka, and sugar. That’s not in order by proportion; that’s in order as remembered when writing out the label.

I forget what I had in mind when I made it. I did manage to stump Jon Singer with it. He’s the Man with the Nose, but he couldn’t sort out the overlapping rose petals and rose geranium leaves. It’s sort of in the Benedictine/Chartreuse range, only friendlier. It’s gotten pretty good.

A few weeks back, Patrick came home with a bottle of Jim Beam rye whisky. You don’t see rye too often these days, but I’ve always liked it: a good straightforward whisky-flavored whisky, without the banana/acetone overtones of bourbon or the peat-smoked seaweed taste of scotch. After I’d tasted it a couple of times, the Cocktail Fairy came to me and gave me a recipe:

1 - 2 tbsp. Summer 2000
a double shot of Jim Beam rye
a couple of pinches of fresh mint
lots of ice cubes

Give the mint sprigs a good pinch apiece and put them into highball glasses full of ice cubes. Meanwhile, fill a cocktail shaker with more ice cubes and toss in the spirits. Shake until your hands hurt from the cold. Pour.

There’s something that feels almost virtuous about sitting back with a drink that was made possible by your having put up one of its constituent liqueurs three years ago. But only almost.

[Recipe Index]

Comments on Virtue rewarded:
#1 ::: Berni ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 09:44 PM:

I am in awe of you. I can't cook at all, so the thought of someone not only being able to cook (without a cookbook!) but also to put up her own liqueurs is inspiring.

It's genetic. I come from a long line of non-cooking women. My mother and her mother couldn't cook either. We all married men who could cook for us. (Hi, hubby!)

#2 ::: Emma ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 09:55 PM:

This brings back memories...
My best friend's dad used to make his own schnapps--my first real drunk came from a "testing session" of assorted fruit flavors...I still remember the headache and the...ahem...other problems the next day...

#3 ::: Jordin Kare ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2003, 11:36 PM:

My father used to make framboise -- raspberry liqueur -- much as you describe. He would talk airline stewardesses (that was before flight attendants) out of the empty mini-bottles from flights he took, rinse them out, soak the labels off, and use them to bottle his product; he cemented quite a few friendships with gifts of Chateau Kare framboise.

However, over time, the raspberries took over much of our half-acre back yard, and the annual production increased from a few bottles to somewhere around 10 gallons. Airline leftovers no longer sufficed, and we started buying 4- and 6-ounce bottles in wholesale quantities. I'm still a little surprised the PA state liquor control board never paid us a visit. Alas, we sold the house in '91 after my dad died, and the new owner has ripped out all the raspberry bushes.

I still have a bottle or two somewhere. Time for a toast...

#4 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 12:42 AM:

Umm. I want the recipe for that blackberry liqueur. That sounds like it was one good party...

MKK

#5 ::: Arwen ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 09:04 AM:

So where can we get Devil's Springs vodka in NYC? I remember seeing it in Niagara Falls, but I haven't seen it here. I want to try some of your ideas (and maybe come up with a few of my own)!

#6 ::: John Farrell ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 09:12 AM:

A couple of Christmases ago, I decided I wanted to try and make my own Stoli Dolis (the specialty at Capital Grille which I've always loved).

So I went out and bought two huge glass jars and several fresh pineapples, chopped them up and marinated them in Absolut for over a week—definitely longer than I needed to, but CG wasn't going to divulge their recipe and I had to wing it.

Thanks for the Jim Beam recipe Teresa—will test it pronto.

(It's finally hot in Boston, so I got out the bar tools last night and made some mai tais; I always use Cointreau instead of Curacao, and I add a little orange or pineapple juice so I'm not completely knocked out after just one....)

Cheers.

#7 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 10:58 AM:

A second on the request for the blackberry liqueur! I have an over-abundance of dewberries this year. I used to make a gin-based blackberry liqueur, but I'm not sure where the recipe went (as Ben Frankiln said somewhere, two moves equal one fire...).

#8 ::: Karin ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 11:04 AM:

I've got a recipe for rhubarb schnapps, of all things, which I'm going to have to try. I wonder if putting up liqueurs works well in our hot Texas climes, though.

#9 ::: lnh ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 11:09 AM:

My father made fruit wines, especially from persimons gathered from the sides of rural Virgina roads. Good fruit, excellent wine, and—he being a chemist—a wicked brandy. He didn't get much of the last: each transformation was also a great reduction, plus the trial and error phase before he learned how to do it just right. Eventually, he went on to other projects (including apples > apple cider > apple jack), but he saved one bottle of the best year's brandy until his retirement party. It was fifteen old by then, and by all reports very, very smooth.

---L.

#10 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 12:32 PM:

I wish I could have introduced you to my friend Jeni. She had a garden that amounted to a smallholding, and she used to make Rum Pot.

She'd start with a huge earthenware crock and a bottle of overproof rum.

Then as each soft fruit came into season in turn -- raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, redcurrants, sloes, blackcurrants, elderberries, blackberries -- I'm probably not remembering the order -- she'd toss a double handful in the crock and cover them with rum.

The blackberries would go in last, at the end of August or the beginning of September, and by Christmas she'd have this amazing *thing*. It was sweet, it was delicious, and it blew your socks off. She used to give little bottles of it to her friends for christmas, with a handwritten label saying "rum pot" and a ribbon around the neck.

She also used to make sloe gin by getting two bottles of Gordon's Gin, decanting the gin into a jug, filling the bottles and a lemonade bottle with sloes, and refilling all three bottles with gin. She'd then give away the two green Gordon's bottles when it was done and keep the lemonade bottle.

You'd have liked her.

#11 ::: Daniel J. Boone ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 12:35 PM:

Ooh, yummy.

As to the rye whisky, I knew I couldn't be the only person in the world who liked it, but I was starting to wonder. It's hard to find, and even harder to find anyone who knows what it is.

One of my fondest rye whisky memories involves showing up at a research camp in the backwoods of Montana (to visit the biologist in charge) while carrying a case of Guinness and two bottles of rye whiskey. The five undergrad slaves were drinking Coors. Coors, I tell you! Well, I introduced them to the concept of booze with flavor, which seemed entirely new to them. But boy, did they ever like it....

Corruption of the innocent, it's great sport.

#12 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 01:38 PM:

I got so entranced by the blackberry thing I forgot to mention. There's a bar here in Seattle which has vodkas infused with buddha's hand, kaffir lime, and mandarin flowers. That's three separate vodkas; it isn't all in one. Shall we make a visit when you're here next month?

MKK

#13 ::: Chuck ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 02:43 PM:

Awww ... thanks, love. :-)

Your "Summer 2000" looks absolutely divine, and I'm going to give something like it a try. We have almost all of those ingredients growing either in our backyard or friends' backyards, and for the quince jelly we'll substitute the thick quince paste from the Latin market that we usually keep on hand (it's fantastic on crackers or bread with Manchego or blue cheese).

I've been doing lots of fruit-infused spirits to use as base spirits for cocktails but as yet haven't made any liqueurs or herbal infusions (more due to procrastination than anything else). One of the ones I'd like to try first is a version of the now-defunct Forbidden Fruit liqueur (based on grapefruit and honey) that I found in a liqueur-making book. I've been lucky enough to taste a sample from a vintage bottle of FF, which helps enormously.

I've got a bottle of blackberry vodka aging in my liquor pantry, which was very easy -- about eight ounces of blackberries, bruised, a fifth of vodka and three weeks steeping. I suppose that'd be easy enough to convert into liqueur, but I didn't use an overproof one, so it won't offer the same hot earlobe action as Teresa's. (Then again, my chairs might remain intact after consumption!)

For all my fellow rye fans out there -- hello! You are not alone! I'd like to suggest something that you might like better than Jim Beam rye, though, Old Overholt is my favorite everyday rye; it's aged 4 years and is among the oldest (if not the oldest) continuously-produced whiskies in the country. I find its flavor to be superior to the Beam product, and if you get it in the right place it's amazingly inexpensive (about $12-14).

There are some higher-end ryes that'll knock your socks off, though. Sazerac 18-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is a revelation, a bit difficult to find but entirely worth it, and it goes for about $35-42 a bottle. Other really good ones are Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye, 13 years, and Hirsch 13-Year-Old. Those last two are in a similar price range as the Sazerac, but if you can find Overholt give it a shot and see what you think. Reportedly Sazerac is already making a 6-year-old version which I suspect will compete with Overholt, and have already put away some more 18-year-old for later, as the current batch will run out before long (it was, apparently, a surprise find when the Sazerac Company bought the distillery).

Now, anyone care to have a shot at making homemade aromatic cocktail bitters? I've got a couple of good recipes to pass on.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 02:43 PM:

John, why have I never thought of using fresh pineapple? I must try that.

Jordin, unless the new owner did an extraordinarily good job of ripping out the rasberries, their surviving rootstocks will have continued taking their revenge on him for many years to come.

Arwen, Devil's Springs is regularly in stock at Warehouse Wines and Spirits, on Broadway just south of Eighth.

All: I can write out directions for how I make blackberry liqueur, but I always do it by improvising from first principles. This is going to run long.

Maceration:

Take good blackberries in quantity. Wash and pick over, keeping an eye out for mildews and rots, and set them to drain. Repack them loosely in lidded containers and freeze. Continue accumulating batches until you have enough.

Put your frozen berries into a two- or four-gallon mason jar. Give them a shake to settle them, then pour in enough Devil's Springs vodka to cover them. If you feel like it, add the thinly peeled zest of one or two lemons and an infinitesimal quantity of allspice. Let soak a long time, shaking whenever you think of it.

Here you come to a difference of of opinion. Some people soak the intact berries for a couple of weeks to a couple of months, then strain. Some mash the berries in the alcohol, steep a week, strain out the berry mash, add more alcohol to it (though not as much as the first time), let that steep a week, and strain it out too. When the mashed berries are significantly paler than the macerated liquid around them, you have won, and can and move on to the interesting process of removing the remaining alcohol from the mashed fruit and the finely mashed fruit sediment from the alcohol.

Okay, you don’t have to. It’s okay to just let the berries sit there in the hootch for six weeks, giving them a sedate shake every day or two. It’ll make a perfectly good blackberry liqueur. It just lacks entertainment value.

Straining:

Like anyone who makes preserves and liqueurs, I own a lot of strainers. It’s easiest to run your liquid through coarse strainers, then finer and finer ones. Toss all your batches of strained-out sediments into a freezer container. There’ll be games to play with them later.

My basic fine-gauge strainer was bought at a coffee and tea shop, and is made out of some kind of finely-woven synthetic fabric. It doesn’t get everything, but it gets most of the fine stuff. I find it works much better if I stir the liquid while it’s filtering. This keeps the little fruit particles from forming an impermeable coating on the inside of the fabric. You just keep stirring, clear liquid accumulates in the catchment vessel, and the stuff in the filter gradually gets thicker and cloudier.

Update, April 2007: do NOT use stockings or pantyhose for strainers. That trick used to work, but now hosiery has some kind of dye or sizing on it that's soluble in alcohol. I lost an entire liter of citrus-infused high-proof alcohol that way -- it turned brownish and nasty-tasting. Being a slow learner, I used a different stocking on a later occasion to strain some strawberry liqueur, and lost that as well. Until further notice, stick to wire strainers and coffee filters.

(Begin invalid passage.)

A good improvisational strainer for all occasions can be made from a new pair of panty hose. Put one leg of them inside the other, tie a small tight knot just north of the foot, and cut off the toe. Cut off the other end at the top of the thigh. Roll the cut edges down together as though you were a flapper about to put on a stocking. When there’s only a few inches left hanging down, stretch the rolled part over the mouth of a tall cylindrical vessel -- or, better, a cylinder with an open top and bottom. Start scooping your fruit into the dependent bit of leg. As it fills, unroll the top in small increments. When you’ve got all your fruit in, tie it off at the top and hang it up somewhere to drain. When it has ceased to drain with any degree of enthusiasm, you have to decide whether you’re going to squeeze it. You’ll get more juice if you do, but you’ll also have more problems with cloudiness. You can have it both ways by keeping the squeezed and non-squeezed batches separate. It’s up to you.

If you’re using a pantyhose strainer for pale fruits like apples or pears or quinces, be considerate when you dispose of it afterward. It looks like the aftermath of a nasty transporter accident.

(End invalid passage.)

Filtering:

Coffee filters are a slow way to filter out the finest bits of sediment. Before you’re reduced to that, put your liquid into tall thin bottles and let the sediments settle out, then siphon the liquid off the top. This is called “racking off”. Stop siphoning before you get too close to the sediments. What remains can be run through a coffee filter. Anything that won’t go through a coffee filter gets dumped in the strainings container in the freezer. If you want a perfectly clear product, you may have to let it settle and rack it off a couple of times.

If you don’t know how to use a siphon, say so. Someone here will explain.

If you’ve used fruit that has a lot of natural pectin, you may have problems with drifting clouds of sediment that refuse to settle. Draw off what you can, and resign yourself to running the rest through a coffee filter. Again, whatever won’t go through should be tossed in the strainings container.

Reverse distillation

Defrost the strainings, stir them togther, and freeze them again. Tall cylindrical containers are good here. Then, on a day when you’re going to be around for a while, set a strainer above a bowl and put your frozen strainings in it.

Two different things are going to happen here. The first is that you’re going to get liquid melting out, leaving most or all of the sediments behind on the strainer. As usual, if your results aren’t perfect the first time, do it again. The first batch or two of squeezings should be pressed through a cloth.

A second and somewhat overlapping process is that the desirable components -- alcohol, flavor, color, sugars -- will melt out first, leaving water ice behind. (The water ice will be very mildly alcoholic and will taste of blackberries. It should be drunk by the cook.) Several rounds of this process will yield a more concentrated product. Concentrating your liquid this way is more of an issue when you’re using fruit that has more water and less concentrated flavor than blackberries.

I’m embarrassed to say I don’t know what triggers this, but when there’s a lot of pectin in the mix, it’ll sometimes jell into little lumps and precipitate out. These can be filtered out with a plain wire strainer. Trouble is, they have a fair amount of alcohol and flavor in them. The only way I know of to deal with them is to heat them until they just barely melt, add some sweetening and a little cream, and put the mixture back into the refrigerator until it sets up. Don’t eat it right before you have to drive somewhere.

Sweetening

Simple sugar syrup: one part water to two parts sugar, heat until the sugar dissolves. Mix with your flavored alcohol until it seems right. Go light. Two reasons. First, the amount of sweetening needed for raw new liqueur may be too much for the smoother end product. Second, you can age it when it’s under-sweetened, then correct at the end. But do sweeten it some.

I’ve used honey as the sweetening in some liqueurs, but the flavor would be too strong for blackberries. On the other hand, a little dab of honey in the mix would go very well.

Mix thoroughly, the let it sit. If the liqueur in the bottom of the bottle is slightly more transparent than the rest, you have some more shaking to do.

Bottling and aging

Use good clean bottles, well scalded, and good clean corks. Make sure the inside of the neck is perfectly clean before you put the cork in, or the sugar will permanently weld the cork to the glass. It’ll also be unhygienic. Leave an inch or so of headspace. You can wax your corks if you feel like it, and it does look nice.

Never put a bottle of preserves away unlabeled. Say what it is, what it’s made from, and the date it was bottled. If you have a target date for aging, put that on too. Put the bottles away in a cool dark forgettable place, and go do other things for six months.

If you drink half of a substantial bottle of blackberry liqueur, and you aren’t likely to drink the other half anytime soon, decant it into a much smaller bottle. Otherwise it’ll oxidize, and won't be nearly as nice as it was.

#15 ::: Arwen ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 03:40 PM:

Ah, Warehouse Wines. Should have thought to look there. Thanks! Ooh, that blackberry liqueur looks fine indeed. I don't have a cool dark place in my apartment though....well, not till October at the earliest. A drawback of living on the top floor of an NYC apartment building.

#16 ::: Rachel Heslin ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 04:23 PM:

Although, alas, I don't embibe (alcohol makes me depressed and anti-social), I really enjoyed reading this. Teresa, I love your writing style.

: )

#17 ::: Alicia ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 05:22 PM:

Teresa, thank you for posting your blackberry liquer recipe, I am anxious to try it.
Chuck, I would love to try my hand at cocktail bitters, bring on the recipes!
Karin, I am in North Texas and we used to make peach brandy (and other flavors) and they turned out marvelous. We didn't use alcohol in the mix, we added sugar to fruit in a mason jar, packed down as tight as possible and buried in the back yard for 6 months or so, depending on the fruit. We would dig up the jars and release the pressure and check the flavor. Straining happened then, and we rebottled in another sterile mason jar and put in a cool dark place to continue the process. This is as best I can remember, it has been years. This same group has a recipe for kahlua too. Yum.

#18 ::: Laura Lemay ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 06:29 PM:

I am SO going to try that blackberry liquer this year. We have a himalayaberry patch that just keeps getting larger...and larger...and larger....

I put up a couple quarts of bing cherries in kirsch every year, and those are pretty evil.

(hi, I'm new. can't remember who pointed me to the site originally, but I've been lurking for a while)

#19 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 07:15 PM:

I'm a Type II diabetic with a occasional taste for booze -- I can tolerate a certain amount of alcohol (as long as I am not currently taking Glucophage) and a certain amount of limited fruit sugars are OK it seems (or at least my glucometer thinks so). But many liqeurs are basically saturated solutions of various simple sugars in alcohol and water with flavoring. Those sugars already in solution are a real problem -- they quickly become blood glucose and there we are. Much as I love them, I can't go near most liqueurs unless I am hypo and need a sugar kick. (It's not as precise, but it would taste better than a glucose tablet . . .)

I know I will toast lightly in heck for this, but I occasionally fantasize about a brilliant chemist who figures out how to make Cointreau with Splendra . . .

#20 ::: Yonmei ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 07:38 PM:

I don't drink a lot, but I do like making flavoured vodkas. I restrain myself, though, because I've not got a hell of a lot of storage space, and I really don't drink a lot.

(Mmmm, fresh pineapple vodka. Mmmmm.)

My current bottles are a raspberry vodka made last year by putting a lot of raspberries into an open-mouthed jar and then covering them with vodka for a couple of weeks: drain off the vodka, and mascerate the raspberries into cream. Result: a red vodka that smells fabulously of sun-warmed raspberries, and an odd-looking and deliciously alcoholic ice-cream that tastes faintly of raspberries.

Also, an orange vodka made with the careful parings of the zest of four organic oranges, left to soak in vodka for two or three weeks: then I drained off the vodka, tried to imagine what to do with a lot of very alcoholic orange zest, and eventually threw them out. The orange vodka, on the other hand, is fabulous stuff. In small quantities.

Next on my list: chilli vodka. I made this before, years ago, in half my usual quantities, and it is an amazing drink: you get the chemical burn of chilli and the colder burn of alcohol mingling strangely in your mouth.

#21 ::: Karin ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 09:02 PM:

Yonmei: There's a restaurant here in Austin that makes Thai Pepper martinis and ginger martinis, each made with the respective seasonings steeped for an undisclosed length of timme in a bottle of vodka. Arguments about what makes a true martini aside, these are seriously tasty drinks. This restaurant also has what they call a Geisha Mary, which is a Bloody Mary with wasabi in.

#22 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 25, 2003, 10:09 PM:

Chuck Taggart: In fact, we're quite fond of Old Overholt; it was your own excellent Looka!'s recent link to this page about rye whiskey that reminded us how long it had been since we'd had any. You're right that Beam's rye is not as distinctive as Overholt or the fancy boutique ryes, but it makes an excellent mixer for Teresa's liqueur--punchier than bourbon, yet accomodating.

I do have to try that Sazerac stuff. They've probably got it behind the bar at d.b.a.

#23 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 12:40 AM:

Laura -- cherries in kirsch sound delicious, but I still remember a friend's Gloria Grapes: a jar filled with white grapes covered in slivovitz (9:1 with powdered sugar) the day the hurricane came through and left until New Year's. (The rule was you could have another as long as you could get it out of the jar.) Quite a way to relive a major storm....

#24 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:03 AM:

Maybe I'm too tired to be reading carefully enough but I'm a little confuse. After you macerate and strain and filter the vodka and berries do you then add to that the results of your reverse distillation? Then bottle and age. I've looked a couple of times and I don't think you actually say what to do with the results of the reverse distillation, but I'm very tired and I could be missing it.

MKK -- oh and thanks

#25 ::: Janet Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 09:35 AM:

Thanks, Teresa -- looks daunting but delicious! I did find my recipe last night:

Blackberry Liqueur
1/2 lb. blackberries
15 tbl. brown sugar
1 piece cinnamon stick
2 pieces lemon peel
2 juniper berries, crushed
0.7 liters gin

Place the blackberries in a strilized bottle. Add remaining ingredients. Seal and let sit in a sunny place 6-8 weeks, shaking occasionally. Then pour through filter paper into another bottle.

The cookbook says to use it in blackberry-elderberry preserves, adding about a quarter cup after you have boiled your fruit-sugar-pectin mix.

I don't know if your could do liqueurs with Splenda, but it's worth a try. It's "made from sugar," as they say, but I don' know if it would ACT the same as sugar in a liqueur. I've been on the Atkins diet since January, and Splenda is a wonderful thing, but it makes funny-looking jellies and preserves -- a bit cloudy, but they taste just fine. There's nothing on the Splenda website on liqueurs, but they do say Splenda is best in recipes where it is used for sweetening, and by implication not as part of the chemical recations involved in cooking. So it may work for the kind of liqueur we have been talking about, but not for real from-scratch winemaking.

#26 ::: Mary Tabasko ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 11:33 AM:

I read this post yesterday morning and thought,
"Hmmm, I'll have to try that one day." Yesterday
evening, as I was checking on my tomato/pepper
patch and picking up after the dog, I wandered
by the mulberry tree, which is just covered in
big, dark yummies, plucked a few, and thought,
"I really need to do something with these, but I
don't know what."

They're at their peak right now (sidewalks are
stained purple, and you can certainly tell what
the birds have been eating), so it's now (or not this year). Mulberry jam is delicious, but I really haven't got the time to make jam right now. What to do?

Well, I'm slow, but I usually get there.

Thanks for the inspiration! The birds will not be
pleased.

#27 ::: Eloise (Beltz-Decker) Mason ::: (view all by) ::: June 26, 2003, 01:48 PM:

Something else to do with the fruit corpses and the squeezings: stick in freezer in jar. When John did his last cordial (called 'Freezer Melt' because of the precipitating incident that caused us to use all fruit then in our posession at once instead of waiting for enough of any one kind to make a varietal), he did this, and then became fascinated when he found it wouldn't *freeze*. It just flowed slower. He then used it as alcoholic ice-cream fruit topping, and maaaaaaan it was good.

#28 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: June 27, 2003, 12:29 AM:

Labels?

(smacks self in forehead, slinks off comments page with an embarassed look, trying once again to remember which bottles on the liquer shelf hold blueberry and which blackberry....)

#29 ::: Elizabeth ::: (view all by) ::: June 30, 2003, 03:04 PM:

Wow. I haven't made flavored booze in an age. I'll have to now. What a passel of great ideas.

One of my favorites is a cranberry liquer that doesn't take too long and looks like liquid rubies. (Also deceptively tasty.)

Loose directions:
Take two packages of cranberries (fresh). Wash and pick over, then food processor to slice them into cute little rounds. Put in a tupperware container with a very tight lid (or other container of choice). Add several cups of superfine sugar (you can blend regular sugar to make it superfine). Add a couple of whole cloves and the zest of an orange or two (use organic or it will taste like orange wax). Cover with decent vodka (although I haven't tried the cheap kind). Put on extra tight lid. Shake every now and again and store in the dark cupboard. When it's been a couple of months, you can drain out all the hooch into little bottles (should be a fabulous blood-like concoction and taste like Thanksgiving) and be left with strange, sweet, booze preserved cranberry slices. They made great additions to muffins, cakes, and ice cream. Almost worth the whole process just for the biproduct. I think, although I'm not sure, that the extra sugar does something to oomph the proof.

I have tried a variety of different weird flavored liquers, but my favorites were keffir lime and chili (in a Thai restaurant, naturally). Soooo hot. But good. And also a wild grass vodka that tasted like a midwest summer.

Mmmm.

-Elizabeth

#30 ::: Wendy Waring ::: (view all by) ::: July 06, 2003, 07:00 AM:

Rye?
Hard to get?
Try Canadian Club Whisky.

#31 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 07, 2003, 01:10 AM:

Wendy Waring writes:

"Rye?
Hard to get?
Try Canadian Club Whisky."

Not paying very close attention, are we? As the piece linked above says:


""Most people think Canadian when they think rye whiskey," Jimmy said. "But that's not a true rye. The rye we make here in the United States is a straight rye whiskey. Straight rye is like straight bourbon, only with rye instead of corn."

In other words, actual rye whiskey is made with at least 51% rye, just as bourbon is made with at least 51% corn.

"Canadian whisky" is perfectly pleasant stuff for a Seven and Seven, but it's basically neutral grain spirits; i.e., alcohol with a brown crayon dipped in it. Calling it "rye whisky" is an artifact of Prohibition and the confusion that followed it. It resembles actual American rye whiskey about the same way that a Heath Bar resembles a shot of Lagavulin.

#32 ::: Norman Erlichman ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2003, 06:17 PM:

I just stumbled on your site looking for a recipe for creme de cassis or black current liqueur. Didn't exactly find one but did find lots of fascinating ideas to read and maybe try. I'm experimenting with soaking black currents coated with sugar in a mix of 95% alcohol cut 50% with water. It worked magnificently may years ago but then when I tried it subsequently it wasn't nearly as good. However when I tasted a bit of it it last week, after having sat for some years, it too was quite good. I'll try to remember to let you know the results of the black current experiment.

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