Thursday, 24 October 2013

Fruit liqueurs

I've been making fruit liqueurs for a few years now and this autumn saw a few additions to the mix.
  • Bramble whisky. You can use a pretty cheap whisky for this; no point putting a decent Glenfiddich or Balvenie into the bottle, use a cheap supermarket blend instead. There are various recipes around, but what works quite well is just to fill up a demijohn with blackberries and pour whisky in to cover them. You can do this over a few weeks, just adding whatever you manage to pick on any single day, and topping up with whisky till you reach the top. I'll add the sugar in a syrup later on, rather than adding at this point.
  • Damson vodka, which I've made before. Again, rather than measuring out particular amounts, I'm just putting the damsons in a demijohn and then topping up with layers of sugar and then with alcohol. Seems to work just fine. Remember to prick the damson skins so the alcohol can get in and do its work.
  • Spiced rum. I'm a great lover of Nelson's Blood, served in the excellent King's Head pub in Norwich and also available online, though without the excellent company and good evening out in the latter case. I'm also trying my own variation with vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg; and I've found recipes for coffee rum and vanilla rum. Both the latter are made by macerating the coffee/vanilla for three weeks, then adding a sugar syrup.
  • Lavender isn't a flavour I'd considered before, but a friend suggested it and I'll be trying it next year. Lavender is such a strong flavour, it doesn't need more than a week or two macerating, and doesn't need a huge amount of lavender to start it off, either.
  • My home made limoncello worked quite well. Compared to the limoncello we bought from Aldi, it's a less pronounced and slightly sweeter flavour, and is short on aftertaste; I made it by layering lemon zest and sugar and macerating with the sugar, so might try it next time with the sugar-syrup method and see if that makes a difference.
  • I've had suggestions for an apple vodka (just infuse), and found an interesting recipe for caramel apple vodka which I really must try, perhaps with a couple of added spices. Apples are a glut around here! Always short of good things to do with them.
Making your own fruit and other flavoured liqueurs isn't incredibly cheap, as you need to buy the booze to start with, unlike making wine or cider where you only need the basic ingredients and yeast. But it's good fun, and relatively little work; and by using home grown or foraged fruit, or cheap past-sell-by-date fruit, you can minimise your cost while expanding your home 'cellar' of interesting flavours.

Biggest tip? For both liqueurs and jelly, buy yourself plenty of cheap muslin and some heavy duty string. We have a couple of roof beams with a big hook, or you can use an upside-down chair with the muslin tied to its legs, to hang the muslin from. Miles better than having to buy a jelly bag ready made. And cheaper.

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