August 28, 2011

Summer Fruit In Vodka

We don't do this as often as we used to, but every summer we think about what fruit we might turn into liqueur.

Peaches have gone into both vodka and brandy in the past. Their rich, summer flavour and aroma is a welcome reminder on a cold winter evening. These are from the Okanagan and have been ripening in the sun on our balcony. Their perfume fills the house.

Sugar, fruit, vodka, a big jar, and a dark cupboard. And either lots of patience or a short memory. Or a short memory.

Regular sugar will do, but try an imported grocery store for rock sugar. It dissolves slowly and looks beautiful going in. Ask visiting friends to bring you a big bottle of Duty Free vodka, the cheaper the better since none of the original flavour (?) will remain.

Amounts and proportions vary. Starting out with less sugar means you can always add more later if needed. Make sure the fruit is de-stemmed and without obvious blemishes. Apples and pears should be cored.

Apricots are the closest thing to the Japanese ume that goes into umeshuu (梅酒), and that is what we usually use. Try a little taste every 6 months or so to experience how the flavour develops.

We have had varying levels of success with different fruit. Hazelnuts in the foreground, ginger on the right, cherries in the back. The red-capped jar is the last few centimeters of our 1998 apricot, now dark and deeply, deeply rich.

  • Peaches: excellent; the fruit breaks down quicker than apricots.
  • Peaches in brandy: fantastic.
  • Apples: should be consumed sooner as the crisp acidity doesn't seem to last.
  • Pears: must be at peak of ripeness since the flavour is so delicate.
  • Raspberries: spectacular; highly recommended.
  • Strawberries: ready within a couple of months; the soft fruit breaks down quickly.
  • Lemons: limoncello is wonderful.
  • Limes: spectacular; even better than lemons.
  • Blueberries: great colour but not a lot of flavour.
  • Cherries: mixed success; requires high-quality fruit. We added more fruit after two years.
  • Ginger: yow! Incredible zing. Nice when mixed with less flavourful liqueur like blueberry.
  • Hazelnuts: deep, woody and very, very good. Required more time for full extraction.
  • Christmas spice: cinnamon, clove, orange peel, raisins, allspice, juniper berries, etc. Ready in 6-8 weeks and goes very well with Christmas dessert. The cinnamon can easily overpower the other ingredients.

The fruit really gives up all its flavour to the alcohol. You'll be amazed at how little flavour is left if you sample a piece after a year. We made a cake with some of the raspberries once, but it wasn't really worth it.
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