Monday, December 5, 2011

Duke of Berry

The vodka infusion projects continue. The range expands as I find new recipes, so vodka infusions really doesn't cover it, now there are preserved fruits, both with and without alcohol, cordials or liqueurs, and what could loosely be called brandy or brandy cordial. Basically, there's always fruit, always a jar, usually booze, and usually sugar.

The most important thing I have learned on my sloshy journey is not to be scared of high proof alcohol. I won't bother with anything under 100 proof from now on. Adding fruit and sugar to vodka dilutes it quite a bit, and if you start with 80 proof, you end up with something on the weak side. Also, from what I have read, higher proofs do a better job of extracting flavor. I don't know about that, but I know that although I thoroughly enjoyed my first round of creations, I like the new, 100+ proof based ones more.

From left:

Blackberry Cordial: My grocery has had a lot of blackberry specials lately, so I have been looking for blackberry recipes. I made this with spirityus and a little bit of blackberry vodka. I did not use the bottled water it calls for, I couldn't understand why I would need to. The cordial hasn't had much time to age, I made it about a week before Thanksgiving, but is really good.

Pomegranate Vodka: I followed the recipe for Pasha's Delight except I used three pomegranates and one liter of vodka. It has mellowed over the past couple months and definitely has pomegranate flavor. It's drinkable by itself, but I prefer the sweetened vodkas. It would be a great mixer. I will have to invent a cocktail for it.

Clementines Confites: This was my second batch, well, two batches I made at the same time. I used corn syrup and they came out perfectly. I love these so much I have started a third double batch, but I ran out of corn syrup and had a full honey bear, so I'm trying honey again. I really hope it doesn't crystallize this time.

Blackberry Vodka (in tall latch jar): I couldn't find a blackberry vodka recipe, so I followed this blueberry vodka recipe, which I have made, and it came out well. It needs to be filtered and bottled but I ran out of bottles.

Strawberry Vodka: Made it from the same recipe as the first batch, but used 100 proof vodka and decreased the sugar by about a third. It hasn't aged long, but is good.

Kumquats Confits: I liked the clementines so much I wanted to try to confit other fruits, so I have been looking for recipes, although I think the clementine recipe could be used for any other citrus of similar or smaller size. The recipe is from a French blog, so you'll have to put it through Google Translate if you, like me, can't manage it in French. Basically, you cook the kumquats in water, add sugar to the water to make syrup, let them sit in the syrup overnight, cook them again, and then store them in the syrup. I'm not sure I did it right, because my syrup seems a lot thinner than the one pictured. Also, the recipe says to cook the kumquats, and then pierce them, well, mine burst when I cooked them, so I didn't pierce them. I'm not sure I successfully candied them, but they are juicy and taste good, so I guess it doesn't matter.

Officer's/Bachelor's Jam (brandied mixed fruit): I started this during the summer. It has been interesting to watch it change. I made it with cheap brandy and if I do it again, I will use spirityus or vodka or rum. It tastes okay but not great. Definitely reminiscent of cough syrup. I haven't tried the fruit yet. Still, I like the way it looks, and I think I will have fun with the fruit. Maybe I can make some kind of fruitcake that everyone will hate but me.

If you are thinking about holiday projects, I recommend Blackberry Cordial. You can make it in an evening, and it only needs two weeks to age. It is meant to be a Thanksgiving drink, and the spices and brown sugar do give it a festive winter flavor. I should mention again, though, that the recipe calls for brandy, and I made it with spirityus (flavorless, 196 proof spirits).

My next project, which I will start once I get jars big enough to make it in, will be some kind of vin maison. Vin maison is similar to what I've been making, but wine-based, so fruit and sugar infuse in wine, with some spirits added to compensate for the dilution, and after the infusing time is up, it is filtered and bottled. It is made in larger batches, which is both good and bad, good in that you end up with six bottles of your creation rather than one or two, bad in that who has a jar big enough to hold six bottles of wine and a bunch of fruit?

Since things have taken a vaguely French turn, there have been many Dukes of Berry, but the most famous, by far, is Louis XVI:

Versailles, 1775

Paris, ca. 1792

I read Antonia Fraser's Marie Antoinette recently, and I also have been reading The Ruin of a Princess, which is a compilation of memoirs by Marie-Thérèse, Duchesse d'Angoulême, the only surviving child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, Madame Élisabeth, sister of Louis XVI, from her letters, and Cléry, Valet de Chambre to Louis XVI. It is online, the link is to the text. I was unaware that so much detail about the royal family's imprisonment was known. Fascinating, but very, very sad. Probably a good idea to have a bottle or two on hand if you decide to read either!


joelle van dyne December 7, 2011 at 1:39 PM  

"The most important thing I have learned on my sloshy journey is not to be scared of high proof alcohol." When you say 'journey' does that refer to your journey through infusing alcohol, or your journey through life in general? It seems like it could apply to either one. Also, it sounds like you really have enough treats to invite, at minimum, 2 friends over to your house to sample them.

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