This time of year, I’m torn.
One one hand… I really hate the commercialization of certain holidays, and how THAT results in stuff like Halloween displays in Menards… in August. Christmas displays in September. It gets earlier and earlier every year. Also, really… The holiday season stresses me out. It means doing my grocery shopping at 5 am, to avoid the crowds and horrible bell-ringer-induced headaches. People body checking each other in order to get the perfect gift or the last box of cocoa on the shelf. Just.. yeah. I digress…
On the other hand, I love giving handmade gifts. There’s something really satisfying about putting the finishing touches on the presentation of your own handiwork, and seeing the joy on the recipients’ face. It’s something personal small-batch, unique, and… not pulled off a shelf at the last minute. You know. Special.
Thing is, a lot of hand made gifts require planning ahead. It does no one any good for me to give Christmas gift ideas in December, when they take 3 months to make. As my friend Karen pointed out yesterday, she always gets a laugh when newspapers publish recipes for making your own corned beef ON St Patty’s Day.
So.. I’m sorry. I know it’s the beginning of September, and I hate thinking “Holiday” this early just as much as anyone. In the interest of helping you give some awesome gifts this year, however, I’m going to write a few blog entries on homemade holiday gifts. Now.
Some will take only a couple weeks to make, others may take a couple months of wait time. Many are ingredient dependent, and best to start NOW. What’s the point of posting a recipe for fresh blueberry liqueur in mid December, for instance? Also, most liqueurs taste better (smoother) with a bit of aging,
So, let’s talk liqueur making.
Liqueur makes an awesome gift, especially when it makes use of seasonally available produce, herbs, etc. On a cold December night, is anything better than getting a whiff or a sip of summers’ bounty?
This recipe was inspired by Fragoli liqueur, a beautiful little libation I was recently introduced to via Twitter. It’s an imported sweet wild strawberry liqueur. Tasty in its own right, but what makes it really special – and pretty – is all of the little wild strawberries floating at the top of each bottle!
As much as we love Fragoli, one of my first thoughts was “Hrm… this would be FABULOUS as a blueberry liqueur!”. And.. here we are. Oh, it’s delicious!
This recipe makes about 6 cups of finished liqueur, perfect to bottle in either 2 750 ml bottles, or 4 375 ml bottles. To bottle it as pictured – “Fragoli-style”:
– The day before bottling, soak a pint of blueberries in vodka overnight. Remove any smashed or mushy blueberries before covering with vodka. Refrigerate.
– Immediately before bottling, strain the blueberries. Carefully add the smaller berries to the clean bottles BEFORE bottling the liqueur.
– Pour liqueur over the berries, leaving only an inch or so of head room. Cap as desired.
Homemade Blueberry Liqueur Recipe
3 cups Vodka*
1 pint fresh blueberries
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
Blitz vodka and blueberries together in a blender until blueberries are pretty well disintegrated.
Pour mixture into one large clean Mason jar, or divide among 2 medium sized jars, capping the jar(s) tightly. Give the jar(s) a quick shake once a day or so for 2 weeks.
At the two week point, taste for doneness. If your infusion lacks flavor even after steeping for a couple of weeks,just add some more blueberries (pureed), and continue infusing until it’s just right!
Once desired flavor strength is achieved:
Strain spirit through a fine mesh strainer & discard the fruit. For a more clarified drink, strain the smaller bits out by running the infusion through a coffee filter – or two. Be patient, the effort is worth it!
Next, make simple syrup.
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool before using.
Stir about 1 1/2 cups of the syrup into the strained infusion. Once fully combined, taste. Adjust ingredients for desired sweetness – I like doing a 1:1 ratio of syrup to infused vodka. Once you are happy with the sweetness, carefully pour your liqueur into a clean bottle.
After bottling, you should let it age for about a week in a cool, dark place before drinking it – IF you have that kind of patience! Aging results in a smoother, more mellow flavor.
* With regards to the vodka, we go cheap with it – usually the 1.75L “Taaka” vodka for $12 or so! For more robust flavors like blueberry, any difference in quality of vodka – using more expensive brands – is totally lost. Save the upgrades in base vodka for more subtle liqueurs!
Interested in boozy culinary experiments? You’ll LOVE my first cookbook, The Spirited Baker!
Combining liqueurs with more traditional baking ingredients can yield spectacular results.Try Mango Mojito Upside Down Cake, Candy Apple Flan, Jalapeno Beer Peanut Brittle, Lynchburg Lemonade Cupcakes, Pina Colada Rum Cake, Strawberry Daiquiri Chiffon Pie, and so much more.
To further add to your creative possibilities, the first chapter teaches how to infuse spirits to make both basic and cream liqueurs, as well as home made flavor extracts! This book contains over 160 easy to make recipes, with variation suggestions to help create hundreds more! Order your hard copy here, or digital edition here.