Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Boozy fruit, an experiment (part 1)

Last week I saw an article in the New York Times food section about preserving fruit with alcohol. Alcohol is antibacterial, so according to the article you can preserve fruit without having to sterilize cans like you do with making jams. In addition, it just sounded intriguing to me. The article suggests that you can serve the fruit and liqueur with ice cream, custard, in trifle, or other dessert options, you can make a drink out of them or garnish drinks with them, or even make muffins out of them if you don’t mind a little buzz in the morning. It seems this is a great idea for gifts at Christmas or throughout the year.

The basic idea seems to be 1 pound of fruit, 1/2 cup of sugar, booze (at least 40% alcohol by volume) to cover, and 4-12 weeks of macerating time. I stared at my liquor shelf and came up with three combinations I wanted to try: gin and cucumber, strawberry and tequila, and plum or apricot and kirschwasser, which is a cherry brandy.

I went to the store and bought a pound of cucumbers, a pound of strawberries, three plumcots and three plums. I also picked up more gin (I didn’t want to use the good stuff for this experiment) and some regular brandy because I didn’t have enough kirschwasser, and the corner liquor store didn’t have it. I didn’t have any quart-size jars, and each pound of fruit makes about a quart, so I just used two smaller jars for each batch. This also gave me the opportunity to experiment with flavorings.

Tequila and strawberries

I paired these two because strawberry margaritas exist and are tasty. I washed the strawberries, cut the stems off, cut large ones in half, and cut all the soft or bad spots off. I figured bad spots would not fare well sitting in a cabinet for months. I divided the strawberries into two jars and added some lime zest to one of them. I added 1/4 cup sugar to each jar and filled with tequila.

Brandy with plums and plumcots

I picked this pairing because one of the recipes was in this vein and I had some kirschwasser I never used. I wasn’t really sure which stone fruit to use, cherry, apricot, or plum, but plums and plumcots were on sale at the store, so I went with those. I washed the fruit and poked it all over with a needle as advised in one of the recipes I had seen. I put the three plums into one jar and the three plumcots into another. To the jar with the plums I added 1/2 a cinnamon stick, some fragments of a nutmeg I had cracked previously, and 1/4 tsp vanilla bean paste. To the jar with the plumcots I added 1/2 cinnamon stick and 1/4 tsp whole cardamom seeds. I added 1/4 cup sugar to each jar, divided the kirschwasser between them, and filled the jars the rest of the way with brandy. The plums didn’t fit in the jars very well, so I ended up cutting one of them in half in each jar for geometry’s sake. I am interested in seeing if this changes the taste or texture.

Gin and cucumbers

I paired these two because of my favorite drink, the Gordon’s cup. I was also a excited to have a reason to use juniper berries. I received some as a gift about a year ago and hadn’t figured out a use for them yet. Using my mandoline, I sliced two cucumbers into 1/4-inch thick slices. I divided them between two jars. Into one jar I also placed 2 tsp juniper berries. Into the other I added a little lime zest and 1 tsp coriander seeds. I sprinkled 1/4 cup sugar into each jar and covered with gin.

There was a good amount of undissolved sugar at the bottom of all the jars, so I shook them around. After an hour or so of shaking every once in a while, the sugar had all dissolved.

All the fruits I used are less dense than alcohol. The plums were wedged into the jars pretty well, so they were completely submerged, but the strawberries and cucumber slices were poking up. I didn’t think that was a good idea, and I didn’t want to spend the next month rotating the jars so all the fruit would be submerged regularly, so I searched my house for ways to hold them down. I ended up putting the two halves of my tea ball into two of the jars, the top of one of our cocktail shakers into another, and an empty sample-sized glass jam jar with no label into the last one. These were just tall enough to push down the fruit so it wouldn’t be exposed to air. I hope none of them are alcohol-soluble. My life isn't very exciting; my quest to submerge fruit made me feel like MacGyver.

Tea ball to the rescue!

Having dissolved the sugar and submerged the fruit, I rinsed the jars so they wouldn’t leave sticky rings and placed them in a corner of a cabinet, the closest thing I have to a cool, dry place in my Houston apartment. Unless I get too antsy, I plan on trying them in around six weeks, which will be November 9th-ish. I’m excited. I’ll let you know how they are and what I decide to do with them. At that point, if they’re good, I can make more batches that will be ready just in time for Christmas.

1 comment:

Cat said...

I am intrigued to find out how this all went! :D