Sunday, 1 June 2014

How to make herb liqueur

I have a long history of making alcohol-based liqueurs and infusions made with fruit or herbs. A fond memory is my beloved papa, a chemical engineer, teaching me how to saturate alcohol with sugar in order to make liqueur. I am the sort who requires a digestif after supper- this seems perfectly normal. And why buy the expensive brands when they are just as easy to make? We are in the final days of Spring; the herbs are ripe and ready to be picked- remember timing is everything. Pick mature herbs on a dry day and always after the morning dew has evaporated. The jar or bottle you use for the maceration is just as important- metal imparts an acidic taste. Ceramic might chip, (fired) pottery or wood is best. You can use brandy but pure alcohol at 60 or 70% and which is sold as alcohol for fruits in French supermarkets will produce a more authentic liqueur.

I believe that natures provides. This recipe is for a herb liqueur that I devised by pure chance- all the herbs were literally flourishing in my garden. And so I made use of them! I omit the sugar as I prefer the strong taste of the herbs only- but if you wish for a sweeter, smoother liqueur, do add the sugar as follows: once the herbs have macerated for several weeks in the alcohol, strain, discard the herbs and add granulated sugar (one cup sugar to one liter of liquid). Re-bottle and cork. Leave to mature in a dark, cool place for up to six more weeks before drinking.

Dandelions- leaves and flowers
Yarrow- leaves and flowers
Chicory- leaves and flowers
Borage- leaves and flowers
Nettle- leaves
Wild strawberry- leaves, flowers
Sage - leaves
Rosemary - leaves
Thyme - leaves
Lemon balm - leaves
Rocket - leaves
Oregano - leaves and flowers
Marjoram - leaves
Apple mint - leaves
The resulting liqueur helps digestion and detoxifies the liver. This is why digestifs were consumed traditionally after rich meals.

Gather the leaves and flowers. Do not wash  the herbs but rather pick off any spiders or bugs. These can be returned to the garden rather than obliterated as is the wont of urban cooks. Place the herbs and flowers in a ceramic crock, preferably. Cover with alcohol at least 4 centimeters above the herbs. Cover the crock with a tight fitting lid. Leave in a cool, dark place for at least six weeks. Strain the contents of the crock, discard the herbs. Bottle the liqueur and store for six weeks more before consuming. One small glass per night before bedtime works wonders!
 Photo and painting (oil on canvas) copyright SvD.

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