Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Liqueur is Quickeur?

You wouldn't think that in mid-July I'd be thinking of making hot chocolate on a frosty night. But I am.

Maybe it's because the weather has been cool and rainy... again... this week, making me long for a cozy fire to dry the air. And maybe it's just because I'm one of those people who, while appreciating the moment, also thinks ahead an awful lot.

But I've been thinking about that hot chocolate a lot since the lovely Phoenix and I started a batch of homemade hazelnut liqueur.

I've been making homemade liqueurs for close to ten years now, since I found a small booklet containing lots of tasty-sounding recipes and decided to try something new for gift-giving. I've made several different kinds over the years, mostly using fruits, and I've had some I really enjoyed repeatedly (such as pear-ginger) and some that were duds (a chocolate-mint liqueur that smelled powerfully of a very medicinal mouthwash).

Some of the liqueurs are wonderful for drinking straight as a nice little nightcap. Others have made it into baked goods to add a flavorful little kick (as I have yet to try with this scrumptious strawberry liqueur, made last summer). And others still make fine additions to an evening coffee or a mug of hot chocolate whipped up from scratch.

So it is that in the last few weeks of having Phoenix around as my trusty sous chef, we finally got around to the highly uncomplicated task of making liqueurs. Three weeks ago, we chopped hazelnuts and poured them into canning jars along with vodka and a splash of vanilla.

Tonight, we strained the brew into new jars and made a simple sugar syrup (2:1 sugar:water) to add to the mix.

The liqueur needs another 3 weeks or so to mingle flavors, and after one more straining, she and I will both have bottles of deliciously rich hazelnut liqueur, perfect for adding to hot chocolate on a winter's evening.

In the meantime, I decided to use some of my berry bounty in a similar way and started batches of red raspberry liqueur and blueberry liqueur (with a touch of orange peel).

While the raspberry will be ready to strain in three weeks, I'll have a longer wait for the blueberry (some fruits take their own sweet time). Both of these will make lovely after-dinner cordials, though I suspect some of the raspberry liqueur will end up in brownies at some point.

Sure, all of these liqueurs take time to steep and brew and settle into their fullest flavors. (I've found that the pear-ginger liqueur is best about a year after bottling.) But when you consider how little of my own time and effort is spent in making these cordials, I'd say a little patience is a small price to pay for liquid gold.

After all, they're well worth the wait.


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