Macerate ALL the things!
It’s been a season of putting things in jars of cheap vodka, just to see what happens. Here is what has happened:
As you might or might not recall, I left the lilac blossoms to macerate for a couple days more than planned, and wound up with a jar of, er, vegetal flavors that did not necessarily complement the lilac. Sitting on the shelf for 4 months has not made the magic happen with this. It tastes okay if you combine it with a little bit of sparkling water – a nice floral lilac flavor definitely comes through – but there are some vegetal off-notes that just won’t go away.
Next year, I will either be very careful to strain out the lilac within 24 hours, or just stick to a simple syrup. I never figured out a good cocktail for the lilac syrup but I adored the heck out of it mixed with soda water and a dash of rhubarb bitters.
I strained and filtered the nocino in early September. It’s on the shelf and won’t be ready until next spring.
This one started with about a cup of pineappleweed blossoms in a pint jar with 2 sprigs of lemon balm and a cup of sugar, filled to the top with vodka, for a week.
This has been the smash hit of my liqueur season. It’s an interesting substitute for St. Germain or other floral liqueurs in any number of cocktails, and with a bit of allspice dram and/or lemon juice it makes a deeply comforting hot toddy.
I filled a quart mason jar about 1/2 full of oregon grapes, plus a handful of sour cherries and early season blackberries and maybe a couple of cloves, a cup or two of sugar, and filled it up with London dry gin (I used Beefeater – in general you want something that is good enough to drink on its own, but isn’t too fancy. And the juniper-forward quality of a London dry style gin is much more suited to cutting through the flavor of the oregon grapes than the smooth botanical ensembles coming out of American craft distilleries).
It’s a matter of taste – my stalwart tasting assistants think it is oddly bitter, and too sweet, respectively, but I love it. It makes an excellent substitute in any cocktail recipes calling for sloe gin, with much more complexity to it than the purple treacles you can buy at the liquor store.
The random variety of lavender that I picked up at a nursery a few years ago isn’t necessarily the most-preferred culinary or liqueur-making variety, but it’s good enough. I let the lavender blossoms macerate for about a week with maybe half a cup of sugar, and the end result mixes about like similar commercial products.
I went to my local crazy herb shop last weekend and bought a few different bittering herbs: Gentian, cinchona bark, and quassia. Plus some impulse purchases. Plus the last of the dandelion roots I dug up and roasted 2 summers ago. Plus I picked some rowan berries (I gave them an overnight in my freezer to emulate a frost, and did the heat treatement described here, which made the berries a little less sour but didn’t seem to have much effect on the weird bitter notes – which is precisely what I want out of an ingredient in cocktail bitters).
I’m about to place an order for a case of little eyedropper bottles and will spend some quality time in a week or three filling them with different bitters blends.
This may or may not qualify as “getting out of hand”.
While I’m full of updates: I did get some money plant seeds, and made a mustard with them. It was yucky. So much for that idea! I’ll keep eating money plant flowers and leave the rest of the plant alone (unless I find an excuse to wrap something in a giant flavorful leaf while cooking).