10 September 2011

From the Chef ~ Homemade Liqueurs

As I noted in my most recent edition of Casa Fiore, I currently have several homemade, home-grown liqueurs.  I've shared with you recipes for limoncello, the famous lemon-based liqueur from Italy, latte di suocera, a potent milk-based liqueur, and fiorino, my own herbal creation (this year's blend shown above).  Below you will see some concoctions I am currently working on.  From left to right: 
  • wild Vashon Island blackberry collected at my folks place on Sylvan Beach - my Dad loves this one;
  • nocino, a walnut liqueur from Italy... green walnuts from mio amico John Welch at Pleasant Hill Winery in Carnation;
  • red currant from my Grandma Elaine's - may God rest her soul! - bushes in Tacoma... first try at this one... should be great;
  • and black currant from my garden - could be my favorite berry liqueur.

The basic recipe I follow for berry liqueurs (I also have a tasty mulberry liqueur from my stunning and prodigious mulberry tree - may God rest her soul!) is as follows:
  • Combine 1 lb. bruised or barely mashed fruit and 1.5 cup pure grain alcohol.  Let sit for 2 weeks or so, shaking every few days.
  • Strain through cheese cloth-lined mesh strainer.
  • Prepare simple syrup:  heat 1.25 cups sugar in 1.5 cups purfied water until just dissolved.
  • Mix alcohol and syrup.  You may drink right away, though most of these will improve with age.
Nocino is different altogether with several other ingredients.  I am happy to share the recipe I use, just let me know.  Fiorino, or loosley translated, "Fiore's little liqueur", is a mix of herbs from my garden with some spices I cannot grow here.  The picture up top shows this year's batch macerating away.  Like a craft brewer reimaging a seasonal brew, each year for the past 3-4 years, I've used a different combination.  I just prepared this year's batch and I kept it simple:  just a bunch of rose geranium and lemon verbena, a tiny bit of chamomile, plus a little bit of cinnamon and cardamon - no bay, sage, lavender, tarragon, or other herbs.  Once my cultured and feral fennel is in full seed mode, I will make some anisette - very simple but very good.  Think of your typical anisette or anisone or Sambuca.

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