I find that Date Nights without The Husband call for indulgent behavior. This week it would include perusing my new knitting book and sampling my homemade vodka infusions to see if they were ready for bottling. It turned out to be great fun until the next morning. Use care when sampling infused vodka, my friends, there’s a hangover creeping in every sip which is why this post is late this week.
Last year I started an experiment with The Neighbor’s grapes. After two years of failed grape jam-making attempts (see my blog post on Tomato Preserving), I decided that there had to be an easier way. I did a little Googling, asked The Mother how she made Raspberry Liqueur, bought gallons of Phillips vodka and tried my first batch of infused grape vodka. What I learned from that test run was that if you let fruit infuse in cheap vodka long enough, eventually you end up with a smooth beverage that everyone ends up sipping with a raised eyebrow asking, “What is this exactly?” Then they request a recipe.
This year, I took the experiment further. Not only would I try a slightly higher quality vodka, I would actually take notes so I could try to recreate the tasty beverage. I also decided to throw in some different fruits to see what tasted the best infused into vodka.
The secret to these vodka infusions (at least that I’ve found) is regular stirring and tasting. My grape infusions have been steeping since September 24 and have been slowly improving in flavor. The first few weeks they usually taste like bad vodka with a hint of fruit. Leave them long enough and they become incredibly smooth and full of fruity body. Don’t be in a rush when you do this experiment.
I began my tasting with the newest experiment, the Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka. I must have imagined writing my notes on a Post-It, because there isn’t one on the lid of the jar. OOPS. But for now, this one has not been infusing as long as the others, has cinnamon and cloves for seasoning and it is good. The flavors are strong, it is easy to finish. The color is beautiful. I imagine it will make a fantastic Hot Toddy this winter.
The two grape infusions were started four days apart and one has sugar added while the other does not. The vodka without the sugar (that is four days younger) has a much more vibrant color while the older fruit with sugar is smoother and went down easier. I expect all of the infusions could be ready to filter in a week or two but we’ll see. It’s all according to taste and how long you want to deal with stirring and tasting, but overall it is a low-maintenance process. Last year I had the grapes infusing for nearly two months before filtering and bottling.
I’ve also made rhubarb infused vodka that is great and is such a pretty pink! That is The Neighbor’s favorite and she is planning on making cases of it next season. Rhubarb definitely requires the shortest amount of time infusing, I gave it about 3-4 weeks. Again, I seem to have misplaced that Post-It, so I will have to try again next summer. It appears that my goals of documentation were better in concept than execution – but what can you do? I made the rhubarb infusion when rhubarb was in season, so that was not on the tasting menu tonight.
As for the knitting patterns, this new book (One + One: Scarves, Shawls & Shrugs) might be my new favorite pattern book ever. I think it’s time to turn on the electric fireplace, pour another sampling of Apple-Cinnamon-Clove Vodka and see what yarn I need to shop for tomorrow. Date Night’s (for One) aren’t so bad if a girl has a good plan in place, especially if it includes a little knitting and vodka. Cheers!
Vodka Infusion Guidelines
Lots of fruit (I have 8 cups of grapes in my container)
10 cups of vodka (3-4 inches of vodka should cover the fruit)
Optional: 4 TBS sugar
** You can infuse in smaller quantities. My process is fairly relaxed, approximately 2 parts fruit to 3 parts vodka. Adding sugar is optional. Cover the jar and stir regularly. When you think it’s ready, strain the mixture through a coffee filter, bottle and serve.